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Gatchalian sends report seeking total POGO ban to Malacañang


President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is worried about Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators’ (POGO) effect on peace and order, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Tuesday as he announced that his report recommending a total ban on the industry has been sent to Malacañang.

“Nagkaroon kami ng interaction at nakita ko nababahala siya dito sa POGO dahil nga dito sa krimen na lumalabas… nababahala siya dito sa sitwasyon dahil nga peace and order, o buhay na ang pinag-uusapan natin,” Gatchalian said during the Kapihan sa Senado.

(We had an interaction and I could see he is worried about PGOG because of the crime connected to it...he is worried about the peace and order situation; we are already talking about lives at risk.)

The lawmaker said Marcos asked his personal opinion on POGOs.

“Sinabi ko nga economically, walang mawawala sa atin. Sabi ko ang economic managers lahat sang-ayon na i-ban na ang POGO dahil nga sa tinatawag na reputational risk. Ibig sabihin, nasisira ang pangalan natin at dahil nasisira ang pangalan natin, walang turistang pupunta sa atin,” he said.

(I said economically, we will lose nothing. I said our economic managers all agree that POGOs should be banned due to what is called reputational risk. Meaning our reputation is damaged and because our reputation is damaged, tourists won't come here.)

The interaction between him and Marcos happened around June, he said.

In March, Gatchalian released a chairman’s report calling on the Marcos administration to ban POGOs completely.

The report was introduced at the Senate plenary after the Senate ways and means committee, which Gatchalian chairs, conducted a series of hearings to assess the socio-economic effects of the POGO industry.

The lawmaker said he sent his report to Malacañang as the Executive Department will make the decision on whether to ban POGOs or not.

“Ang legislative naman recommendatory lang, that’s why yung mga resolution na ipinapasa namin, is to  encourage but eventually ang aksyon inyan ay executive… That’s why I went to Malacañang to submit the report because eventually at very end executive ang gagawa ng decision,” he said.

(The legislative is recommendatory only, that's why we pass resolutions, to encourage, but eventually the action is up to the executive.)

The report has yet to be sent to the Senate plenary as Gatchalian needs two more signatures from the members of the ways and means committee before it can be sponsored on the floor.

Despite this, Gatchalian believes that the phaseout of the POGO industry is “very close,” saying that a survey showed that "as high as 70 percent" of respondents were not in favor of POGOs.

Gatchalian believes that the Executive Department is not yet acting on his recommendation because it is still analyzing the pros and cons of banning POGOs.

“Tingin ko rin ay ina-analyze nilang mabuti ano ang impact nito, lalo na sa kita ng PAGCOR. Doon sa pag-a-analyze namin, nakita ko na almost 10 to less 20 percent ng kita ng PAGCOR galing sa POGO. So kung may ahensyang mawawalan ng kita na medyo malaki-laki ang PAGCOR,” he said.

(I believe they are analyzing the impact of a ban, especially on PAGCOR's earnings. In our analysis, we saw that almost 10 to less than 20 percent of PAGCOR's earnings come from POGO. So if there is an agency that would lose a lot of earnings it would be PAGCOR.)

The lawmaker also expressed his concern over Filipinos becoming human trafficking victims in the country, citing videos from the recent raid in Las Piñas in which more than 2,700 people were rescued, including 1,534 Filipinos, from a suspected trafficking situation in an alleged POGO.

“May human trafficking victims na—pinakamalaking human trafficking incident ng bansa natin, 2,700 at kalahati nito mga Pinoy na inimbitahan sa probinsya, dinala dito at ikinulong dahil nga pinangakuan ng trabaho. So yan na nga eh, meron nang spillover sa mga kababayan natin sa locals kaya nakakabahala na,” he said.

(There are already human trafficking victims, the largest human trafficking incident in our country, with 2,700 rescued—and half of these are Pinoys from the provinces who were brought here with promises of jobs and trapped. So there is now a spillover on the locals and that is worrying.)

Gatchalian also said that the POGO industry “corrupts” the government, from the human trafficking cases in the Bureau of Immigration to the operations of the law enforcement agencies.

“Magtataka ka bakit ang daming inspeksyon, may Bureau of Immigration, may pulis na nang-raid pero ganyan pa rin. So ang isa sa nakita ko dito sinuman ang nagpapatakbo sa likod nito marunong din na maglagay, i-corrupt ang system…Ito based on my analysis kaya nakakalusot,” he said.

(You're wondering why with so many inspections, the Bureau of Immigration and the police raid but it's still the same. So one of the things I see that whoever is running these operations also knows how to pay off and corrupt the system. This is based on my analysis of how they are able to get away with it.)

“POGO corrupts the system kaya maraming palusot ang nangyayari,” he added.

Gatchalian said the allegations that police officers supposedly “milking” money from foreigners and Filipinos who were caught in the recent raid in Las Piñas must also be investigated.

He is eyeing to file another resolution to include the latest Las Piñas raid in the investigation into the supposed human trafficking cases linked to POGO industry. — BM, GMA Integrated News

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