POGOs in the Philippines are Closer to Being Eliminated

Posted on: September 20, 2023, 06:47h. 

Last updated on: September 20, 2023, 12:48h.

The Philippine Senate has conducted an investigation regarding the crimes associated with Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), and after months of debate, is a step closer to taking action. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means already stated that it wants all POGOs to leave the country, and the Senate may now agree.

The Philippine flag flying in front the Senate building
The Philippine flag flying in front of the Senate building. A Senate committee is gaining support to eliminate POGOs. (Image: Philippine Star)

A committee report regarding the benefits and perversions brought by the POGOs has received enough support from senators, according to a press release. The report reiterated the committee’s appeal to the executive department to respond to the Senate’s recommendation by immediately suspending the operation of all POGOs.

Spearheading the endeavor is Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. He’s spent months trying to eliminate POGOs and to force changes to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), and might finally get his way.

End of the Line for POGOs

Ten senators on the committee have signed the initiative, according to the press release. Since it only has 18 members, this means the majority of the committee approves the plan.

The push for the elimination of POGOs follows a string of criminal activity within the segment. Gatchalian has previously stated that, based on Philippine National Police data, there have been more than 4,300 victims of crimes related to the gaming operators over the past six years. Behind the crimes were the same 903 people.

The crimes include verified cases of mass human trafficking, kidnapping, homicide, enslavement, kidnapping-for-ransom, extortion, and more. The scandals have caught the attention of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who has admitted that maybe the POGO segment is no longer worth having around.

Marcos, similar to what PAGCOR officials have stated, has emphasized that only illegal operators were causing the problem, not licensed POGOs. In many cases, the illegal companies were previously licensed firms.

Should the ban be fulfilled, the Department of Labor and Employment would play a key role in the transition. It would be required to find alternative jobs for those individuals who lost their employment because of the closures.

The Senate proposal also urges the Bureau of Immigration to cancel and revoke the work visas that were first issued to any foreigners working in the POGO industry. This would subsequently lead to the immediate deportation of those individuals.

Decision Faces Resistance

Not everyone is in favor of a swift, forced exit of POGOs. Senator Juan Edgardo Angara previously said that the Senate committee report on the immediate closure of all POGOs was illogical.

Angara argued that the suggested three-month time frame is insufficient for legitimate POGOs to finalize their operations, especially considering the significant investments they had made in the country. He added that the operators were in the Philippines because the country invited them, and that forcing them out would be unfair.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Victor JV Ejercito previously expressed his support for an extended reduction plan on licensed POGOs. He envisioned a process that could take two to three years in order to facilitate a smooth transition for the companies and their employees.

Ejercito has apparently had a change of heart. Also on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, his name appears as one of the 10 that signed off on the new plan.