Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday insisted that all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) operations in the country should be stopped.
In a media briefing yesterday, Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate ways and means, said he will file a bill to repeal RA 11590 that provides legitimacy to the operations of POGOs.
RA 11590 or an “Act Taxing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations” was signed by then President Rodrigo Duterte on September 22, 2021.
He noted that repealing RA 11590 is also one of the recommendations by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who supports the immediate ban of POGO operations.
“That is one of the suggestions of Sen. Pimentel—to repeal that law, Republic Act No. 11590. Because that law impliedly legitimized POGO in our country,” Gatchalian said.
According to Gatchalian, he is amenable to Pimentel’s proposal “because that law gave legitimacy to POGOs through the taxation regime.”
After conducting a Senate hearing on the socio-economic costs of POGOs, Gatchalian cited in his Chairman’s Report that the government never really earned revenues from the POGO industry.
Because of this, he noted that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) should collect the tax liabilities of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) third party-auditor, POGO licensees, and service providers.
The PAGCOR earlier said it terminated its deal with third-party auditor Global ComRCI after it deemed the auditor “in default of its obligations.”
Meanwhile, Gatchalian is urging local government units (LGUs) to make a stand about maintaining the industry’s presence in their respective localities.
Gatchalian noted that certain LGUS, especially those considered hubs of POGOs, have started to recognize the implications of allowing POGO operations in their respective jurisdictions. Such LGUs include Manila, Pasay and Paranaque.
“Once crime happens in your jurisdiction, it’s the mayor’s responsibility and the local chief of police’s responsibility. So, it becomes a local issue and it becomes the problem of the community,” Gatchalian pointed out, noting that Pasig City was the first LGU to approve an ordinance banning POGOs after recognizing that the social costs of POGO operations outweigh the benefits derived from them.
“What we should strive for is a peaceful and orderly society, a country that we can invite our friends and tourists from abroad to come to. They will not come here if they read in the reports that people are being illegally detained,” Gatchalian said.
He emphasized organizations that are capable of kidnapping and illegally detaining people are not businesses but criminal syndicates.
“Only criminal syndicates can illegally detain people and that creates an environment that is not stable for all of us. I’m afraid that if we do not stop this, it will cascade to enforcers, and one day, we will have a difficult time mobilizing enforcers as well because they are already taken hold by these criminal operations,” he added.
“Let’s not attract investors that bring crimes. Parang kumakapit tayo sa patalim. There are legitimate investors who can bring in capital investments, and increase jobs,” he emphasized. The senator added that in the case of POGOs, 90% of their employees are foreign nationals and only 10% are Filipinos. “We are not creating value for our own citizens,” he stressed.
He has recommended the immediate ban of POGOs in the country.