Giving POGOs a bad name

"What matters is the intent."


Before the pandemic hit, the Senate had been in the thick of an investigation linking POGOs, short for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, to various criminal acts, including bribery or the pastillas scheme at the Bureau of Immigration, prostitution, kidnapping, robbery-hold-ups, etc. 

It was as if these POGOs invented these criminal acts. As if they never existed before the onset of the POGOs.

So, despite the fact POGOs are one of the biggest sources of income of the Philippine Gaming Corporation, which donated billions of pesos to the national coffers to sustain its spending for support for those affected by the more-than-a-year community quarantine, it has come to be highly vilified.

But thanks to lawmakers like PBA Rep. Jericho “Koko” Nograles who conducted probes on their own, it was exposed that those firms who had links to criminal activities were actually illegal gaming operators, prompting Nograles to brand them as NOGOs, or the Non-registered Offshore Gaming Operators.

So, if there’s one group that should be investigated and prosecuted, it should be these NOGOs and not the POGOs.

However, the Senate probe, for some reason, might have already been terminated without coming up with any recommendation. Thus, we still have no idea as to what the Senate findings are on these POGOs and NOGOs.

Anyway, the other day, lawyer Larry Gadon bared he was asked by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, to file charges, this time against a legitimate offshore gaming operator for allegedly using their names to swindle people into investing in their company.

According to Gadon, a certain Lucio “Louie” Ceniza who represents himself as someone very close to Duterte and Go, has enticed several businessmen to put up a POGO company and demanded  for three parts  ownership of the company claiming that one part belongs to Ceniza and the other two parts belong to Duterte and Go which was discovered to be a hoax. 

The businessmen, Dr Noel Lacsamana, Phil Villamar and associates were made to believe that Ceniza was really close to Duterte and Go.

Also charged with Ceniza, chairman and chief executive officer of 888 Solutions, a Pagcor-accredited POGO, are Ret. Col. Espiridion Javier, Ret. PCol. Teroy Taguinod, Attorney William Balayo, and Joseph Cacha

According to Gadon, the businessmen, who are actually his friends, were duped by at least P400 million.

Upon learning of the alleged scam, Gadon said he immediately informed Go, who denied involvement in the said POGO company. At that point, Gadon said Duterte himself and Go instructed him to go to the National Bureau of Investigation and report the scammer who uses their names and who claims closeness to them. Go, the lawyer said, even made arrangements for him to coordinate with the NBI director. 

Based on the complaint affidavit, the businessmen claim they were duped by Ceniza into believing his closeness to Duterte and Go as Ceniza always had four uniformed motorcycle escorts with him, who were supposedly provided by the Metro Manila Development Authority, through the intercession of Taguinod, who apparently did so without any authority from the agency. 

Gadon said he has already called the attention of MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia as to why MMDA has provided security and motorcycle escorts to Ceniza. It turned out that the escorts were all unofficial as Garcia stressed that the MMDA does not allow such practice pointing out that he himself does not have escorts despite his position as the General Manager. 

Ceniza also claims he holds office in Malacañang but NBI found out that Ceniza is not a Palace official in any capacity and he is merely renting a small condo unit beside Malacañang.

According to the complainants, it was Javier who introduced them to Ceniza, at the same time acting as image-builder, vouching for the truthfulness of Ceniza's claims and misrepresentations.

Balayo, who is currently the customs collector assigned in Limay, Bataan, acts as Ceniza’s lawyer.

Cacha, on the other hand, is the Technical Adviser of Ceniza, whom the latter projects as “trusted operations officer” of Stanley Ho in Macau. And that with his vast experience in the systems and operations of the casino wizardry, would be able to churn billions of pesos in profits for the POGO being set up. 

However, the complainants said that upon verifications with his former employers, they found out that Cacha is just a member of the security and surveillance department.

The complainants alleged Ceniza incurred heavy expenditures which he has continuously refused to account for. According to the complainants, Ceniza even threatened to “spray with bullets” those who will question him.

This is an interesting case because unlike the gaming operators linked to criminal acts which the Senate investigated, this is one legitimate POGO and this is wholly owned by Filipinos, again unlike the foreign-owned NOGOs which were the subject of the Senate investigation. And if the allegations are true, then whis would that if one is bent on committing criminal acts, it won’t matter whether one is a foreigner or not, if one is operating a legitimate business or otherwise. What matters is the intent.

And while POGOs, which is one of Pagcor’s biggest revenue earners, continue to contribute to at least ease the economic impact of the pandemic, they will continue to be pillorized, courtesy of the alleged illegal acts of these entities, legitimate or not.

They are the ones giving POGOs a bad name.

This writer tried to get the sides of 888 Solutions, Inc. through one of the respondents, Mr. Joseph Cacha, but as of this writing, he has not yet responded.

Anyway, should they decide to issue any statement regarding the complaint filed by Atty. Gadon, or even this article, they can be rest assured they will be given the same space to present their side.

Topics: Larry Gadon , POGO , Jericho “Koko” Nograles , Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators
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