"Look not at the Pogos, but the Nogos."
Last week, the Bureau of Immigration announced the relief of five of its airport officers from their posts following the discovery of a payoff scheme which allegedly allowed hundreds of thousands of Chinese to enter the country and work for Philippine overseas gaming operators without permits. That scheme is dubbed as the pastillas scheme—the money paid was usually rolled up like the popular milk candy.
This was uncovered in a Senate investigation wherein an Immigration personnel divulged that Chinese tourists who wanted to work in the country illegally were simply made to pay a P10,000 “service fee” in cahoots with private tour operators.
Of the P10,000, P8,000 is said to go to the syndicate or the private tour operators while the P2,000 goes to Immigration personnel, broken down as follow:
Duty Immigration Supervisor—P470; Immigration Officer—P650; Travel Control Enforcement Unit—P280; Border Control Intelligence Unit—P240; Operations (admin, clerical work)—P260; and Terminal Head—P100.
Although I find the division of the loot ridiculous as I cannot fathom why would the supposed corrupt officers and personnel over at the BI would agree that the tour operators would get 80 percent of the bribe money and that they would be dividing among themselves loose change, I believe the scheme is nearest to the truth as I have written about this almost two years ago. At that time, no one was listening.
In my column published in November 2018, I raised the question why the BI was allowed to issue special working permits for these supposed Pogo workers, which was a duplicity, if not a usurpation on the powers of the Department of Labor and Employment to issue alien employment permits.
But then, even if it is the BI issuing a special working permit or the DOLE issuing an alien employment permit, those have to be supported by documentary requirements proving they are to work in a Pagcor-accredited Pogo or its attached service providers.
Now the question: If those Chinese applying for special working permits upon arrival to the country are legal and have the necessary supporting documents, then why would they bother to shell out additional P10,000 per head? According to Senator Risa Hontiveros, the payoffs since 2016 have totaled around P10 billion. But these Chinese businessmen would not be shelling out this large amount of money if they are legal.
Which then brings us to PBA Congressman Jericho “Koko” Nograles’ revelation about the existence of the Nogos—the Non-registered Offshore Gaming Operators.
According to Nograles, these Nogos which have been operating without the necessary permits and licenses, could be behind those illegal activities which have put the Pogos in bad light and which have been the subject of congressional probes by both chambers of Congress.
In a media forum, Nograles supported the opinion of this writer that the legitimate Pogos, now a P283-billion industry which constitutes 1.4 percent of the country’s GDP, has now been politicized as maybe because of the fact that most of the Pogos are owned and operated partly by Chinese businessmen while our own President is being accused of being largely pro-China.
That since the issue of the Pogos have been politicized, lawmakers conducting the probe have overlooked the fact the issues concerning the Pogos are more or less, a failure of law enforcement.
What are the issues concerning Pogos? Bribery and Corruption at the BI? Chinese Prostitution dens? Kidnapping? Human smuggling? Abusive Chinese who pee in public places, drive without license, spit on the floor of a fastfood chain, etc?
But we have the appropriate laws on these matters. The problem is reporting it to the authorities and enforcement. It seems people who witness criminal acts committed by foreigners are more concerned in taking videos and posting it on social media for a rather than reporting it to authorities for proper disposition.
And then there’s the local government units who are sleeping on the job.
Take the case of Manila Wellness Spa located at Diamond Bay Towers in Roxas Boulevard. Manila Wellness Spa was raided in November last year being suspected of fronting for a prostitution den catering to Chinese Pogo workers. The Diamond Bay Towers, owned by a certain Benny Cuason, was then ordered closed by the Parañaque City Government last December for operating without the necessary business permit and a certificate of occupancy.
However, my sources tell me that Diamond Bay Towers is in full operation again this year, hosting the same suspected prostitution den and a Pogo—or Nogo. How can a legitimate Pogo secure a business permit and a letter of no objection or lono if the office space it is renting has no business permit and certificate of occupancy?
Again, these are issues of law enforcement which our lawmaker-probers have apparently overlooked. They are more concerned on the Pogos which are operating on legitimate grounds.
Maybe if they will focus more on Nograles’ exposè on the Nogos and the glaring failure of law enforcement to attend to the issues of criminality concerning this particular industry, maybe we could have a smooth sailing operation for these Pogos, sans the criminal activities it had been unjustifiably linked to.
Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs when you can separate the bad eggs?