MANILA, Philippines – Several senators on Wednesday explained the reasoning behind their vote on the proposed permanent ban on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) after the Senate Committee on Ways and Means report on the issue received sufficient signatories.
Senator Imee Marcos said she did not sign the report because she could not study it thoroughly.
“(A)ng kinatatakutan ko e malusutan lang kasi alam naman natin mga malalaking tao ang nasa likod ng Pogo. Hindi lamang malalaking tao sa sindikato kundi sa ating pamahalaan,” Marcos told reporters in an ambush interview.
(What I fear is that it will just get through, because we know that big people are behind Pogo. Not only big people in the syndicate, but also in our government.)
Sen. Marcos added that while there are obvious problems associated with Pogos, she does not want it to be “the same as agricultural smuggling, which is not punished by those who actually operate.”
Senator Bong Go, on the other hand, emphasized that if peace and order are threatened and if the lives of Filipinos are affected, Pogos can already leave.
“Just make sure that those who have lost their jobs will have other jobs,” Go said.
Senator JV Ejercito, while one of the signatories of the report, said he will table an amendment with the intention of suggesting that legal Pogos be given a “phase-out period” while illegal Pogos should be “immediately banned.”
“There must be preparation for those who will be displaced to find alternative employment and businesses related to Pogo, to also find alternative markets or businesses such as real estate and others. The abrupt cancellation could have consequences for several sectors affected,” Ejercito said.
“To clarify that I am not in favor of Pogo, I just want to soften the impact on its cancellation through phasing out,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros also supported the committee’s call, saying she firmly believes that a total ban on Pogo is right and just.
“We ourselves in the Senate Committee on Women have been investigating (Pogo’s) involvement in prostitution, corruption, especially in the Pastillas scam, human trafficking, and recently we have also investigated that Pogo’s are also being used as a legal front by scam centers. Therefore, I also call on the government to take action against these Pogos so that they can be completely dismantled,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, said the recommendation to permanently ban Pogos in the country was included in Committee Report No. 136 submitted to the Senate on Tuesday.
The following senators signed the report:
- Senator Win Gatchalian
- Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
- Senator JV Ejercito
- Senator Pia Cayetano
- Senator Grace Poe
- Senator Raffy Tulfo
- Senator Risa Hontiveros
- Senator Loren Legarda
- Senator Joel Villanueva
- Senator Koko Pimentel