Outlaw POGOs? Palace says let’s see

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2020 03:52 PM | Updated as of Mar 04 2020 05:19 PM

Phil-Asian Gaming Expo features offshore games targetting bettors outside the Philippines. Games can be played on desktop or mobile devices. Photos taken at the SMX Convention Center. July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Malacañang said on Wednesday it would wait for lawmakers to decide whether offshore gaming operations should be outlawed after senators agreed to craft a measure that would declare the industry as “illegal.”

President Rodrigo Duterte is “against all corrupt practices and illegal acts,” his spokesman Salvador Panelo assured the public as he refused to give a categorical answer on whether the Palace is open to outlawing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

“If the legislature makes it unlawful, then ibang usapan na yun (that’s different). We will have to wait for the President whether he agrees with it or not,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

“Anything that will be bad for this country, he (Duterte) is out for the elimination of illegal things,” he added.

Several senators on Tuesday agreed to craft a measure that would declare POGOs as “illegal” after Sen. Richard Gordon delivered a privilege speech about crimes linked to either Chinese nationals or the offshore gaming industry.

"These shenanigans that we see here all arise from the policy decision of allowing online gaming operations to stay here... Should we allow the operations of these POGOs with all the illicit activities that come with it?" opposition Sen. Franklin Drilon said.

While the Palace acknowledged reports of anomalies surrounding the POGO industry, Panelo said there must be a “good thing in it.”

“I cannot say if it’s good for the country or not. The legislators are tasked to legislate laws that are good for the country. If they feel that it’s against the welfare of this country, we will evaluate it if that’s true or not but we will wait for them,” Panelo, also the President’s chief legal counsel, said.

“The fact that it has been there, I suppose there is good thing in it but of course, there are also, as we have received reports, there have been many instances of using it for illegal practices,” he added.

President Duterte, at the start of the year, said China assured him that it would not meddle in the Philippines' policy on offshore gaming operations as more Chinese nationals seek work in the industry here.

Chinese law bans its citizens from engaging in "any form of gambling" including online and those that are based overseas but cater to Chinese nationals.

Beijing "understands" Manila's law enforcement system, Duterte told ABS-CBN News in January.

The Philippines in recent years saw an increase in the number of Chinese expatriates who work mostly in offshore gaming operations, called POGOs by local authorities. 

The industry has been under public scrutiny as it has been linked to a number of crimes ranging from sex trafficking to corruption.