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More solons want all POGOs closed down

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A House leader on Monday warned POGO-politics will doom the country amid a growing clamor for the government to totally ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations and declare the industry a national security threat.

“These POGOs are fronts to Chinese-led criminal syndicates, money-laundering, espionage, cyber hacking, wiretapping, and other illegal activities that gave rise to murder, kidnapping for ransom, rape, prostitution, torture and countless other unspeakable barbaric activities,” said Surigao del Norte

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairperson of the House committee on dangerous drugs.

“POGO politics has complemented narco politics now. If we continue to be blind and refuse to read the writings on the wall, we are doomed,” he added.

At the Upper House, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Imee Marcos joined calls for the government to prohibit POGOs immediately.

“Let us simplify and stop beating around the bush because nothing will happen… Let us not allow it—both legal and illegal (POGO operations),” Pimentel said in an interview with dwIZ.

Senator Imee Marcos sought the suspension of POGOs as she broached the possibility of seeking assistance from China, which has banned the industry for its citizens.

“I think we need to suspend operations right now. Maybe suspend first and then study the system and come clean on what is allowed and what is not,” she said yesterday in an interview with radio dzBB.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, has been leading inquiries on a POGO hub raided by authorities in Bamban, Tarlac, last March.

Hontiveros and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian earlier urged the National Security Council to recommend banning POGOs to the President as well as to declare it a national security threat.

Barbers, for his part, said whatever benefits are gained from allowing POGOs to continue, these are nothing compared to the social costs of the industry.

“These POGOs that are banned in mainland China only brought more crimes and shame to our country. The social costs keep mounting and no amount of taxes or perceived jobs can outweigh them,” he said.

Gatchalian, who said he regretted supporting POGO operations that began under former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, said he now advocates for a total ban due to the rise in crimes associated with online gaming.

The senator said the unlimited issuance of franchises by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) opened the gates for illegal POGOs.

In a television interview, Gatchalian said PAGCOR cannot evade accountability on the widespread illegal POGO operations in the country.

PAGCOR chairman and chief executive Alejandro Tengco over the weekend said alien hacking and scam syndicates (AHaSS), and not licensed POGOs, pose a real threat to national security.

He said legitimate internet gaming licensees or IGLs generate funds for the government, contributing more than P5 billion to PAGCOR’s gross revenues in 2023.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline POGO prohibition calls from senators continue amid rising crimes


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