Abalos warns local execs on POGO liability

Mark Ernest Villeza - Philstar.com
Abalos warns local execs on POGO liability
File photo shows a typical office of a licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator or POGO.

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos warned local government executives on their liability in the proliferation of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) and other illegal activities in their respective areas.

The liability of local government officials “does not only involve POGO but all illegal businesses,” Abalos said over dzBB when asked if elected officials will be held accountable over illegal POGO operations.

He noted that he led a raid on an illegal POGO in Angeles City, Pampanga two years ago. “I personally led the raid in Angeles City, involving Lucky 99, that’s why I was surprised that it was allowed to operate in Porac when I already raided this company.”

Abalos said local government units could ask for police assistance to check on suspicious activities of a business establishment in their jurisdiction, adding that Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Chairman Alejandro Tengco earlier said only 43 POGOs have licenses to operate in the country.

“From 200 to 400 (licensed POGOs)… based on my conversation with chairman (Tengco), only 43 are legal and he said every week, these are being regularly checked. So you could just imagine those who were not given permits, these are still in the Philippines and it is possible that they are involved in illegal activities, so all the LGUs and the PNP should be aware and immediately act on this,” he added.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian took the same stance, saying governors, mayors and other local officials should be held accountable for failing to monitor illegal POGO activities in their respective areas.

He commended the Pampanga provincial government for investigating the POGO hubs in Porac town and Angeles City.

Pampanga Vice Gov. Lilia Pineda vowed to finish the investigation into the POGO in Porac, saying these operators had no respect for the government.

“It (Lucky South 99) has no building permit, no electrical permit, nothing at all, zero. It has no environmental compliance certificate. They entered the town, disregarding everything. They have no respect for the government,” Pineda said over Teleradyo Serbisyo.

Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission spokesman Winston Casio revealed in an interview over ANC that at least four POGO hubs, including the one in Porac, raided by PAOCC have licenses but were also seen to be doing illegal activities.

He said the POGO hub in Porac lost its license in October 2023, but continued illegal operations, including torture, which led to a raid on June 4.

Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz also revealed in an interview over Storycon on OneNews PH that PAOCC is investigating the presence of a former executive assistant to Harry Roque, spokesman for the past Duterte administration.

Cruz said the former assistant resided in the POGO complex in Porac while studying in nearby Clark. He noted that this is unusual since a POGO complex typically accommodates only employees and not students.

Of the 43 remaining licensed POGOs in the country, the largest is the former Island Cove Resort in Cavite, Casio said as he revealed that they are also monitoring the operations of this hub.

He confirmed that PAOCC monitors both legal and illegal POGOs, although the agency has not physically entered Island Cove.

Casio acknowledged the challenge posed by the continued operation of more than 300 illegal scam farms across the country, stating that it is “a very big problem that demands a whole government and eventually a whole-of-nation approach.” — Bella Cariaso, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Evelyn Macairan

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