Also in Iloilo? 

By Alex P. Vidal 

“Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening.” —Alexander Woollcott

NO legitimate member of the Filipino-Chinese community in Iloilo in his right mind will begrudge the move of the Sangguniang Panlungsod through Councilor Romel Duron asking the authorities to investigate the alleged involvement of illegal immigrants to illegal gambling operations and prostitution in several Iloilo City subdivisions.

In fact, authorities were also concerned these illegal immigrants may also be involved in trafficking of illegal drugs, among other high-profile criminal activities.

If the reports were true, the Tsinoy community all over the archipelago should even be glad that authorities are now starting to clamp down on these criminal activities.

Any attempt to cleanse the metropolis with undesirables and bad elements should be welcomed and supported by any community.

Those who will oppose it can be suspected of concealing something or may be part of the bigger picture or scourge that has bedeviled the country as discovered in the recent blistering raids in several Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) hubs in Luzon.

If Duron’s sources were right, it is not only the Chinese nationals staying in the country illegally that are involved, but also probably Vietnamese and Malaysian nationals, among other Asian illegal immigrants that have mushroomed surreptitiously all over the Philippines.

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According to former newsman and Sangguniang Panlungsod factotum Limuel Celebria, Duron has called for an investigation into the activities of illegal immigrants in the city of Iloilo, especially on illegal gambling operations.

“Taking cue from the ongoing senate investigation about personalities engaged in suspicious activities in relation to Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO), Duron raised fear about the possibility of similar nefarious engagements taking root in this city,” Celebria wrote in his social media post. “Duron noted that, historically, there have been thousands of illegal immigrants in the city, especially coming from the Chinese mainland.”

Celebria said the investigation in aid of legislation will be conducted by a committee of the whole to be led by Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon. Councilor Ely Estante expressed full of support of the investigation and suggested that the Bureau of Immigration be consulted during the probe.

Councilors Allan Zaldivar and Sedfrey Cabaluna called for caution in the conduct of the probe so as not to offend the city’s Filipino-Chinese community, according to Celebria.

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Duron’s resolution came as the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality has scheduled to hold another inquiry on July 10 following reports on the alleged involvement of a former cabinet official in the issuance of licenses to illegal Pogos.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chairman and chief executive officer Alejandro Tengco has been invited to shed light on his previous statement that a former high ranking government official in the previous administration “tried to facilitate the grant of gaming licenses to some illegal POGOs that have been raided”, according to Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros.

In a statement on July 1, Hontiveros said: “We are calling a next hearing and I hope the PAGCOR chief deems it right forum to reveal what he knows. Whoever the ex-cabinet official turns out to be, the fact remains: POGOs are being used as a legal cover for scam hubs.”

Tengco has reportedly confirmed his attendance at the Senate hearing.

Hontiveros’ committee has been investigating several illegal Pogos in the country, including the latest raided Pogo hubs in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga.

Pending the results of investigations in the suspected operations of illegal immigrants in Iloilo, Hontiveros might include several personalities in the future committee hearings that could shed light on other Pogos outside Luzon.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)

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