In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, Taiwanese Lai Yu Cian (right) tells the media that she was forced to work in a POGO office, where she says she was threatened, abused and physically assaulted. With her are Sen. Risa Hontiveros (center) and anti-crime advocate Teresita Ang-See.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, File photo
Palace denies turning a blind eye on issues confronting POGOs
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - February 18, 2020 - 7:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — The government is not turning a blind eye on the controversies hounding Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), Malacañang said Tuesday, as it expressed readiness to look into the illegal activities tied to the proliferation of gaming hubs in the country.  

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government would stop the operation of POGOs if it is "against the interest of the people and general welfare."

Irregularities have been linked to POGOs, the latest of which is the so-called "pastillas" scheme wherein immigration personnel accept bribes in exchange for the entry of illegal Chinese workers.

Other illegal activities tied to the proliferation of POGOs are prostitution dens that cater to POGO workers, tax evasion and kidnapping of Chinese employees.

"Well, if those will be proven, then there is something wrong with the operation of the POGO, then the government has to do something about it. Until such time, the presumption is, they’re performing regular task in accordance with law," Panelo said.

Asked if the accusations would prod the government to rethink its policies on POGOs, Panelo replied: "Anything that is bad for this government, the government is always open (to look into it)."

Panelo said the government is not worried about the possible impact of a crackdown on the operation of erring POGOs,

"Look at the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) issue, despite all odds, he decided to cut it off. There are supposed to be very significant implications according to critics and supporters of VFA, but that didn’t stop the president from abrogating it," he said.

Panelo was referring to Duterte's decision to terminate the VFA due to the alleged "disrespectful" acts of American officials.

"As the president said, ‘There is no sacred cow in this government.' If it’s against the interest of the people and general welfare, I’ll stop it.’ This is the kind of president we have."

Panelo said people who have information about irregularities should file complaints.

"Even if these are being subject of talks in media, in columns, unless there is a complaint filed, we will never know. You have to submit proof so that we can do something," the Palace spokesman said.

"There’s nothing to investigate in the first place, unless there is a complaint."

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