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Saturday, July 13, 2024

People of money, influence fuel POGOs—Archbishop Lazo

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A Catholic Archbishop said that powerful and influential people are behind the sudden rise in the number of illegal offshore gambling operations in the country, saying corruption and misuse of power are the cause of these illegal activities.

In his homily, Archbishop Jose Lazo of Jaro, Iloilo City pointed out that the rise of illegal Philippine offshore gambling operators (POGOs) reflects a mentality that “if you have money or influence, whatever you want, you get.”

“Looking at our own country, this sounds familiar. Like the POGOs that we have, hundreds of them in the country, not even half are registered. And they continue to operate,” Lazo said, hinting that the industry is likely protected by corrupt individuals.

“Of course, they can only get that with accomplices. You cannot get in the country, you cannot operate, if there will be no accomplices to be with you,” he added.

The archbishop made the statement in his homily at the opening Mass of the 41st National Social Action General Assembly (Nasaga) at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral.

Nasaga is a biennial gathering of social action directors and workers from across the country, including some bishops of Caritas Philippines, the umbrella organization of diocesan social action centers.

POGOs, mostly run by Chinese firms, have been linked to criminal activities, including money laundering, fraud, and illegal gambling.

“There are so many incidents that we can see that if you have the power, the money and influence, including the guns and the goons, what you want, you get,” Lazo added.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan earlier called for the shutdown of POGO operations in the country.

Villegas lamented the negative impacts of POGOs have outweighed the benefits to the nation.

“The recent raids that revealed the extent of the evil at these POGO hubs—including incidences of human trafficking and torture and money laundering—make it a moral imperative that they be outlawed,” Villegas said.

State gaming regulator and operator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) recently said that 250 to 300 POGOs were operating in the country without a license. These figures far outnumber the 46 recognized as legitimate operators.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “People of money, influence fuel POGO proliferation—archbishop”.

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