Ban POGOs now!

By Herbert Vego

WE heard Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers) loud and clear: The only way to eliminate the criminal activities of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) is to revoke all licenses granted to them.

In House Bill 10525 filed to that effect, Castro correctly blamed the Chinese POGOs for routinely violating Philippine laws on money laundering, tax evasion and other serious offenses.

We have also heard and read too many news reports linking them to crimes of rape, murder, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, prostitution and illegal detention, among other offenses.

Worse, the discovery of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) uniforms in the POGO facility in Porac, Pampanga arouses fear about China’s creeping domination of our archipelago.

To reiterate, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) rescued 186 foreign and Filipino workers inside the Lucky South 99 POGO hub in Porac.

To Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, it indicates credible links between POGOs and a foreign power.

A parallel Senate bill (SB 2689) by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, is aimed at repealing Republic Act 11590 of 2021 that legitimized POGOs by imposing taxes on their gross gaming receipts.

The irony of it all is that Gatchalian was among the 17 senators of the 18th Senate who voted to approve RA 11590. The three who voted “no” were Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan.

In explaining his “no” vote, Pangilinan warned, “We cannot and should not turn a blind eye away from the social costs that the POGO industry brings and has brought upon us.”

The law sought to be abolished was a diktat by former President Rodrigo Duterte in collaboration with its author, Sen. Pia Cayetano, who seemed unaware of its harmful consequences.

Duterte waxed ecstatic in calling POGO “good” because it would bring economic benefits in terms of job creation, property sector earnings and revenues for the government., robbery-extortion, money laundering, online scams, and lately, espionage.

With the change of power from Duterte to President Marcos, most senators of the 19th Senate had a change of heart. In September 2023, a few senators urged the President to phase out POGOs. The call, however, landed on deaf ears.

Unless they are banned, we would always entertain the possibility that they have influenced the results of national and local elections.

Perhaps, had the POGO hubs concentrated only on taking on-line bets from foreign gamblers instead of constructing multi-level buildings in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga to host syndicated crimes, we would not be antagonized.

It is strange that until the exposure of the POGO hub in Porac, Sen. Lito Lapid – a native of the town — had said nothing about it.

I can now imagine that most of the incumbent legislators would now vote to ban POGO, given the overwhelming public clamor against it.

Otherwise, they would be suspected of having been on the take.

Don’t you agree, Ang Pinuno?



ALLAN VIDAL, a friend from Leganes, Iloilo, was asking me when he could avail himself of electrical connection with MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power).

I can understand his impatience.  It has almost been two years since the bill expanding its coverage to 15 towns and a city lapsed into law (Republic Act No. 11918).

These are the municipalities of Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, Zarraga, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Dueñas, Dumangas and San Enrique, and the component city of Passi.

Stay patient, Allan. No less than MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro assured us that there’s just one more requirement before all systems go — a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Meanwhile, the good news from Sir Roel is that the company has already set aside about P1.5 billion for private and secondary lines in targeted areas. The installed poles and lines are now visible to motorists.