Senator refutes PAGCOR claim that licensed POGOS have no illegal activities

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Senator refutes PAGCOR claim that licensed POGOS have no illegal activities
File photo shows online gaming
AFP / File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday rebuked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) for claiming that none of its licensed Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) hubs have been raided for illegal activities, pointing out that recent POGO hubs flagged by authorities were licensees.

In a statement, Gatchalian pointed out that the recently raided Lucky South 99 in Porac, Pampanga, the biggest POGO hub in the area, was connected to a company licensed by PAGCOR.

The senator also pointed out that the Zun Yuan POGO hub in Tarlac's Bamban town, which authorities raided in March this year, had a provisional license. PAGCOR had also "found no irregularities" when it inspected the POGO hub at least two days before the firm was raided.

"It seems as if PAGCOR has become like Mayor Alice Guo and can no longer remember that licensed POGOs have also been raided," the senator said in Filipino.

Gatchalian added that PAGCOR's "blatant failure" to regulate POGO hubs, which he and other senators have been calling to ban altogether due to its association with crime, has become a "menace to our society." 

"The reason why POGOs are still prevalent today is because PAGCOR only removes the license, but it does not cancel the employment permit given to workers. There is no proper regulation. That's why POGOs are happy in the Philippines," he added.

PAGCOR Chairperson Alejandro Tengco said in an interview with One News' Storycon on June 13 that PAGCOR's licensees are not engaged in illegal activities.

Arguing that regulating instead of banning POGO firms will allow government to compel them to follow the rules, Tengco said that only those without licenses are operating illegally. "They are basically criminal syndicates involved in criminal activities like scamming operations," he said.

Gatchalian and Sen. Risa Hontiveros have, in previous Senate hearings, pointed out the possible conflict of interest between PAGCOR's duty to regulate POGO hubs and, at the same time, generate revenue.

The Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said last week that it is investigating a possible government insider who leaked the raid on Lucky South 99 in advance to help POGO workers and officials escape.

Around 158 foreign nationals working in the biggest POGO hub in Porac, Pampanga were arrested, far fewer than the expected 1,000.

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