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Palace: Deportation of Chinese nationals nabbed in POGO raid up to Immigration

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Deportation of Chinese nationals nabbed in POGO raid up to Immigration
ILLEGAL POGO BUSTED: Chinese nationals ride a police vehicle following their arrest for an illegal offshore gambling operation in Barangay Tambo, Parañaque the other night. Forty-four Chinese nationals and nine Filipinos were nabbed and dozens of computers were seized during the raid.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is leaving it to immigration officials to decide on calls to deport the 44 Chinese nationals who were nabbed for carrying out offshore gaming operations in Parañaque City during the enhanced community quarantine.

Forty-four Chinese nationals and nine Filipinos believed to be working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) were arrested last Friday in the city for violating quarantine protocols.

Authorities confiscated about P1.3 million in cash, five pistols, 36 laptops and 17 desktop computers during the operation.  

Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez called for the deportation of the arrested Chinese nationals and a probe into the possible connivance between barangay officials and gambling operators.

"That will be addressed by the (Bureau of) Immigration and Deportation... I know POGO operations are prohibited and if there reasons to do so, I'm sure the (immigration bureau) will make the right decision," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing Monday when asked about the mayor's call to deport the Chinese nationals.

The bureau last week said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente directed its legal division to conduct an inventory of all deportation cases and to submit appropriate recommendations to the board of commissioners.

"We don't want COVID-19 transmissions to happen in our facility. We will work double time to deport aliens, especially for wards that are considered health risks," he said, referring to the BI facility in Taguig.

Officials previously said POGOs are still not allowed to resume operations even in areas where quarantine measures have been relaxed. They noted that POGOs fall under amusement and leisure category, which is a non-essential because it is not related to health and food.

The government has been earning billions from the operation of POGOs but the industry has also been linked to unlawful activities like human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, tax evasion, kidnapping, and bribery of immigration personnel.

Roque said Duterte has not decided on whether to allow POGOs to resume operations to generate funds for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response.

"If the decision is to allow them to resume operations, the only basis would be simple. We need funds for the needs of our countrymen," the Palace spokesman said.

"It's simple mathematics. While there is no decision yet, we have a lot of needs. It's clear that P397 billion has been allotted for COVID-19. We have spent P352 billion... the president cannot perform magic to generate money for our expenses. There has to be a source," he added.

Roque expressed doubt that some politicians are protecting POGO operators.

"POGOs have no protectors because they are under PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.). Only PAGCOR can give them the authority to operate. The question is where we will get funds for our needs while there is COVID-19 and a vaccine has not been developed," he said.

Roque said the government would also investigate reports that there is a secret and unregistered health facility catering to Chinese nationals working for POGOs.

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