DILG, LGUs urged to revoke business permits of POGOs evading tax fees

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2019   •   607

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGU) to support the Finance department’s move to shut down Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) that are not complying with the country’s tax laws.

In a statement, Villanueva said the DILG should help in this measure by ordering LGUs to revoke business permits of POGOs that are evading their tax liabilities.

The DOF over the weekend ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to close down and file charges against POGOS including their service providers that fail or refuse to settle the tax liabilities of their foreign workers.

READ: PH gov’t to close down tax-evading POGOs

The order was issued following reports of slow collection of withholding income taxes from select POGOs with tax liabilities amounting to P21.62 billion despite the issuance of 130 letter-notices to these firms.

“We do not owe anything to these errant POGOs who have the gall to refuse the correct payment of taxes of their workers. We expect nothing less than the immediate shut down of these firms,” Villanueva said.

“It is high time that our government acts with dispatch to make these firms comply with our country’s laws. We call on the interior department to support the Department of Finance by asking all local government units to revoke business permits of POGOs who do not comply with our tax laws,” he added.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier assured support for the Finance department’s move to close down errant POGOs.

“We follow the law. BIR has the legal authority to close down establishments who evade taxes. Pagcor supports this move. We are issuing a letter to all POGO operators and service providers to this effect,” Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo said in a statement.

Villanueva also urged the DILG to assist the BIR in implementing the order by asking the police to shutter tax-evading online gaming operators the way it closed down operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) last month.

It can be recalled that police closed down PCSO outlets in July after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the immediate suspension of all its gaming operations over the supposed corruption in the agency.

The president later lifted the suspension on lotto and small-town lottery operations but with certain conditions.

Villanueva also pointed out that POGOs only provide “minimal benefits” to the country compared to its effects to Filipino locals and businesses, including the increase of rental rates for residential or office spaces near POGO hubs.

“Hindi biro ang pagsulpot ng sektor na ito at ang mga kaakibat na problemang dala dala nito tulad ng paglikha ng tinatawag na real estate bubble at pagtaas ng krimen sangkot ang mga dayuhan,” Villanueva said.

“Sa ating pananaw, hindi po sapat ang kanilang binabayaran na buwis para payagan itong mamayagpag,” he added.

He also raised concern over the spiking number of crimes involving foreign nationals, citing a recent raid in Pasig City where 277 Chinese nationals were apprehended.

READ: BI arrests close to 300 Chinese nationals in Pasig City

“Dumadayo na rin po sa ating bayan ang mga kriminal na tumatakas sa kanilang pananagutan sa batas ng China, tulad na lamang ng nakaraang raid sa isang opisina sa Pasig noong nakalipas na lingo,” he said.

“Maging ang gobyerno ng China po ay hinihiling na ipagbawal na ang pagpapatakbo ng mga POGO mula sa ating pamahalaan. Maliit lang po ang benepisyo natin sa sektor na ito, at mas malaki pa ang dulot na abala sa atin nito,” he added.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, said a public inquiry into POGOs will be conducted where they will discuss all the facts and effects it has brought to the country.

Over 15,000 PDLs released from jail amid COVID-19 pandemic – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – More than 15,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) have been released from jail facilities as part of the government’s decongestion program in light of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the DILG said that from March 17 to June 22, a total of 15,322 PDLs were released from jail facilities supervised by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Of this number, 5,910 were from the National Capital Region; 1,557 from CALABARZON; 1,487 from Central Visayas; 1,041 from Central Luzon; 897 from Zamboanga Peninsula; 762 from Northern Mindanao; and the rest are from other regions.

Around 1,312 of these PDLs were released because of the new Supreme Court guidelines issued to decongest the jails.

Majority of these released inmates are elderly and those who committed light or bailable offenses, the DILG said.

“All of these PDLs were released by authority of the courts with some released in accordance with new guidelines issued by the Supreme Court because of the pandemic,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said.

“Ang paglaya ng libo-libong PDLs ay patunay na hindi sila nakakaligtaan at hindi pinapabayaan. Patunay rin itong gumagana ang justice system sa bansa kahit pa man may pandemya,” he added.

Año issued the statement in response to the claim of leftist groups that the government is not doing enough to decongest the jails.

The DILG chief also said that the BJMP established COVID-19 isolation centers with medical staff in the regions despite budgetary and personnel limitations. These isolation facilities were put up with the support from the Department of Health, local government units.

Six Ligtas COVID Centers with 918-bed capacity are established in strategic areas, particularly in Quezon City, San Fernando City, Cebu City, Mandaue City, Pagbilao in Quezon province, and Zamboanga City, Año said.

He added that the bureau also intensified its triaging process, provision of more focused medical care to patients, conduct of daily disinfection of jails, targeted and expanded testing, and massive health education campaigns inside jails.

“These are on top of the usual precautionary measures such as wearing of face mask, thermal scanning, use of foot baths, hand washing, and maintaining good hygiene,” he said.

“Kahit pa maraming responsibilidad ang ipinagkakatiwala sa DILG ngayong COVID-19 crisis ay hindi isinasantabi ng Kagawaran at ng BJMP ang PDLs. Tinitiyak namin ang kapakanan at kaligtasan nila,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected the country’s jails, with a total of 783 confirmed infections among PDLs and 135 among BJMP personnel.

As of Thursday, July 2, 549 PDLs and 90 bureau personnel have recovered from the viral respiratory disease, Año said.

“Tinututukan po namin ang sitwasyon sa mga BJMP jail sa buong bansa at hindi namin pinapabayaan ang mga COVID-19 positive cases. Sa katunayan, marami na ang gumaling at hindi kami bibitaw hanggang bawat isa sa kanila ay maka-recover na,” he said.

The BJMP also expanded the electronic dalaw (e-Dalaw) program in relation to the temporary suspension of visitation in all jail facilities amid the public health crisis.


Duterte to meet with AFP, PNP commanders following Jolo incident

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Mindanao to meet with top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the wake of the killing of four soldiers by policemen in Jolo, Sulu last Monday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday.

Año, however, did not disclose the date and place of the president’s upcoming meeting with police and military commanders.

The Interior Secretary, who supervises the PNP, also said that Duterte may possibly talk to nine policemen involved in the shooting of soldiers.

“The president is going to the south to talk to our PNP and AFP commanders, sabi ko nga kung may time pa siya ay kakausapin niya yung mga suspek,” Año said.

Malacañang said the president was saddened by the incident between the police and military officers.

He has also ordered for the National Bureau of Investigation to expedite the release of its probe findings.

The Palace also denied that the incident is the result of the alleged state-sponsored extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration as claimed by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

“Hindi po natin kinukunsinte ang patayan kaya nga po masinsinang imbestigasyon ang ginagawa natin dito sa pagpatay sa 4 na sundalo sa hukbong sandatahan,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Año echoed Roque’s statement as he assured that those responsible for the Jolo incident will be held accountable.

“Extrajudicial killing is not the policy of this government and the Sulu incident, we will exact justice and make sure those responsible shall be accountable, umasa kayo diyan. Ako mismo ang personal na nag-follow up ng kaso,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DILG tells LGUs to help DepEd enforce ‘new normal’ learning delivery in public schools

Robie de Guzman   •   June 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday urged local government units (LGU) to assist public schools in their respective areas and support the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan of the Department of Education (DepEd).

In a statement, DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said LGUs should use the special education fund (SEF) to support the localization of DepEd’s learning continuity plan and to assist public schools in their areas in adjusting to the ‘new normal’ in learning delivery modalities.

Malaya said local chief executives should immediately convene their respective local school boards to discuss which of the new learning modalities identified by the DepEd can be utilized in their respective areas.

They should also tackle allocations for the SEF, as well as identify and provide the necessary support to their teachers and learners, stressing that there is only less two months left before the next school year starts.

“In a crisis, we need all the help that we can get at ang SEF ay tulong na itinatadhana ng ating batas para sa pagpapanatili ng matibay na pundasyon at kalidad ng edukasyon sa ating bansa,” Malaya said.

“Hinihikayat natin ang LGUs na gamitin ito ngayong malaki ang kinakaharap na pagsubok ng ating sektor ng edukasyon,” he added.

Under the Local Government Code, the local school board (LSB) is a body created on the provincial, city, and municipal levels that determines the supplementary budgetary allocation the LGU can provide for the operation and maintenance of public schools nationwide, among others.

Section 272 of the Local Government Code states that “the proceeds from the additional one percent (1%) tax on real property accruing to the SEF shall be automatically released to the LSBs.”

Malaya said that the board’s function in providing support to public schools will be a big help in the implementation of the learning continuity plan this school year which “will be more challenging in comparison to the previous ones.”

“We may have a lot on our plate nowadays pero hindi natin kailanman dapat kalimutan ang edukasyon ng ating mga kabataan,” he added.

The DILG spokesperson also urged LGUs to assist in the enrollment activities by providing kiosk or center in the barangay for the distribution and collection of enrolment forms of learners in public schools in their respective areas and assisting schools in the delivery and collection of printed modules from the homes of the students.

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