Letters to the Editor

POGOs have got to go

The Philippine Star

With those grisly and shocking videos of shoot-outs and beatings making the rounds on social media, government officials – especially politicos – are scrambling over each other calling for a ban on POGOs (Philippine offshore gaming operators) and sending POGO workers, mostly Chinese, back home via deportation or their voluntarily leaving.

All these POGOs – legal and illegal – landed on our shores when the previous administration cozied up – kowtowed may be more like it – to China and embraced everything – good and bad – from our mighty neighbor. Nevermind that the Chinese government itself – no less than the president himself – banned all forms of gambling and even warned us against hosting these online gambling dens.

We only saw the money we could get from them – which, it turns out according to our money managers, to be not as much as we thought or expected; the real estate boom resulting from their needing office spaces and residential accommodations for these thousands of workers.

These hordes of “workers” – practically all young men – enjoyed visa upon arrival privileges as tourists, or benefitted from “pastillas” processing at the airports (expedited immigration processing in exchange for bribe money wrapped in paper similar to pastillas wrapping). Most of them didn’t bother to get the documentation needed to justify their extended stays and their being employed, so they don’t pay taxes and perhaps did not even bother to properly register their presence in the country.

With all those males in town, no one considered the accompanying vices of prostitution and most probably drug use, not to mention rowdy, offensive and uncouth behavior in public places, very often in our neighborhood. And where there’s gambling, can crime be far behind?

And now that we want them out, we’re told it may be easier said than done. The justice secretary warned of a “humanitarian crisis” as these thousands – he said 40,000, a senator said it’s more like 100,000 – of Chinese nationals could be stuck here since the Chinese government has made it hard for former POGO workers to go back home.

But however difficult it may be, we have to rid our society of this scourge. Let’s not be the dumping ground of “industries” that other countries don’t want. It’s costing us much, much more than we’re getting – by any measure. The POGOs have got to go. – Matthew San Marco, Pasay City


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