Don’t ban all POGOs

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Deporting all employees of POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) because of the involvement of a few of them in the abductions and murders of their compatriots is like using a mallet to kill a pesky fly.

Not all POGO companies in the country are illegal. Some of them – including those of junket magnate Kim Wong’s – have licenses from the government-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Lax immigration policies in the previous administration led to the influx of Chinese nationals who ended up in illegal POGO outlets, and even prostitution.

One such illegal POGO company was owned by gaming tycoon Jack Lam, who left the country during the P50-million hullabaloo involving two deputy directors of the immigration bureau and a retired police colonel.

Michael Yang was another illegal operator, who was close to order president Digong Duterte. He has since reportedly fled after the new administration took over.

Not a single employee of Wong’s POGO firm was involved in any criminal activity, as they were under strict orders to behave – or else they would be sent back to China.

The outcry over crimes committed by Chinese nationals toward their compatriots in the country has been so loud that many legislators want to outlaw all POGOs.

One of those opposing the ban is Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, one of the brightest members of the House of Representatives.

“Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?” said Salceda, a management engineering graduate from the Ateneo de Manila and holder of a master’s degree in business management from the Asian Institute of Management.

“Our policy cannot be to give an entire industry up just because there are some bad actors. All industries have bad actors. The solution to all illegal POGOs is not to close all POGOs. If anything, that will only create an entire underground sector,” the economist-turned-politician warned.

Salceda was Malacañang’s chief of staff during the time of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Closing down POGOs will displace 70,000 direct jobs for Filipinos and the loss of billions of pesos in real estate rental issues, Salceda said.

Even Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla looks with disfavor at a complete closure of the POGO industry.

“A humanitarian crisis,” as Remulla puts it, might ensue if the illegal POGO players sought asylum in the country, as they would be punished severely when they get home.

A situation of tago ng tago or TNT might take place among Mainland Chinese who don’t want to go home.

TNT refers to Filipinos who have overstayed in the US and are playing hide-and-seek with immigration authorities there.

There are an estimated 40,000 POGO employees, both legal and illegal, who are in the country. Other estimates place their number at 100,000.

The crimes involving Chinese nationals as victims or perpetrators should be blamed on the Philippine National Police, for its dismal inefficiency in preventing crime.

*      *      *

Filipinos have mixed feelings towards the martial law years, bitterly remembering them or favorably commemorating them, depending upon which eyes see them.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. imposed martial law over the country on Sept. 21, 1972, or 50 years ago.

I was one of many who lost their jobs in media. I was a newscaster at DZHP of Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), which was based at the Herald Building in Intramuros, Manila.

I hopped from one job to another outside of media – at one time becoming a medical representative for a multinational drug company, a high-paying position but one where I was incompetent – so I hated the Old Man Marcos who imposed it.

But when I became a police reporter for the Manila Bulletin, I realized that – despite all the criticisms heaped upon the government – those years had much less crime than the pre-martial law days and even after, supposedly when democratic ideals had been restored.

True, many military and police personnel abused the powers given to them for protecting and upholding the security of the state. At the time, the country was under siege from subversive elements.

Collateral damage could not be prevented in a conflict with such a gigantic scale. I think that if martial law had not been imposed, the country would have fallen into the hands of Communists and Muslim secessionists.

Yes, the survivors and families or friends of victims who suffered in those “dark days” can’t be blamed for their outcry. Abusive soldiers belonging to the so-called Lost Command killed my Uncle Vicente Castro, my mother’s first cousin, whose only crime was to be on the wrong side of a land dispute.

In my field of vision as a Manila Bulletin crime reporter and columnist, Filipinos benefited from martial law.

Criminals were on the run during the martial law period. Those caught never continued with their nefarious activities again.

Mass discipline – unheard of before military law – led to citizens lining up for rides, waiting for their turn in public places and cleaning up their neighborhood of trash.

Citizens obeyed laws, like those for traffic, not because some cops were watching but because they became accustomed to doing it.

Contrary to the popular perception that reporters were prevented from exposing abuses by policemen and soldiers, the martial law government left us alone, nay, even encouraged many of us to write about those abuses.

Exposés in my column in the Bulletin led to the dismissal, suspension or detention of countless troopers and cops who oppressed ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

Gen. Fabian Ver, then the Armed Forces chief of staff and chief presidential aide-de-camp, invited me to his office inside the camp of the Presidential Security Command, which was along the Pasig River. It was because of my hard-hitting column.

Ver said I was helping the martial law government weed out undesirable soldiers and cops. He not only congratulated me, but he also prodded me on.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with