Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019   •   979

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang believes there is nothing wrong with the location of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs near military camps following concerns about its possible risk to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Chinese-dominated POGO hubs’ will be better protected if these are near military installations.

“Military camps? Eh di lalong magaling kung military camps dahil binabantayan sila ng military for their protection,” he told reporters in an interview.

However, Panelo said he would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson to assess any security issue being posed by foreign operated online gaming operations.

“The Palace will always defer to the National Security Adviser on matters of security in the country,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said that providing protection to POGO hubs by the military is a “very valid suggestion,” but this is not part of their mandate.

However, he assured they are ready to help when their assistance is requested.

“That’s a very valid suggestion. But it is not the job of the military to watch or protect the POGO workers,” Lorenzana said.

“That is the job of the Bureau of Immigration, Police, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If our assistance is requested, we will assist,” he added.

Esperon has yet to issue any comment on the issue as of this posting.

Several lawmakers earlier raised a concern about Chinese-dominated POGO hubs near military camps and other vital installations, saying these pose risk to the country’s security.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier defended its decision to situate POGO hubs and its foreign workers in areas near military camps for their security and rights protection.

Pagcor chairperson and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo said hubs for online casinos and self-contained communities were mainly created to provide basic needs and ensure the safety of foreign workers employed in POGO hubs. She added that POGO workers are free to go wherever they want to.

Domingo’s statement came after the Embassy of China in the Philippines raised concern over the creation of self-contained communities as this might violate Chinese workers’ liberties.

“So, if their liberties are not restricted and according to them, ginagawa nga nila iyon to protect them, so, kung ganoon naman ang essence noong paglagay sa kanilang lugar, I don’t think that will be a violation,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Formal complaint necessary for gov’t to act on alleged ‘pastillas’ scheme in BI

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang vowed to take action on the reported anomaly inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the so-called ‘pastillas’ scheme.

But the Palace said, it could only act on the matter once a formal complaint is filed.

“Any violation, any transgression, any anomaly, the Palace frowns on it and will act on it, if there are complaints formally filed before its office,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Based on an expose by Senator Risa Hontiveros, BI personnel were allegedly taking bribes of up to P10,000 from Chinese nationals who wanted to enter and work in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.

Panelo said the Palace is expecting BI Commissioner Jaime Morente to spearhead the investigation and enforce the necessary actions on involved BI personnel.

“The Immigration commissioner is tasked to do his job. Meaning, apart from the usual governing of his own territory, he has to know if there is an anomaly in his territory and respond to it,” the Palace Spokesperson said.

Five immigration officials were already relieved following the Senate inquiry yesterday.

Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte would not hesitate on stopping POGO operations in the country if evidence of corruption is proven because that would definitely have a huge impact on the country’s economy.

“Di ba sabi nga ni Presidente, ‘there is no sacred cow in this government. If it’s against the interest of the people and general welfare, I’ll stop it.’ This is the kind of President we have,” Panelo said. — MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Taiwanese POGO employee seeks help after alleged abuse from Chinese employer

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 12, 2020

A Taiwanese national claims she was a victim of human trafficking after she was forced to work at a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) company.

Twenty-three- year-old Taiwanese national Lai Yu Cian or Ivy is seeking help after she was allegedly trafficked into the Philippines. She also reported suffering abuse from her Chinese employer.

“They want me to work for 24 hours, treating me like a slave. I already told them [employers] I want to go home. I want to go back to Taiwan. But they forced me to work for them,” she said.

Ivy said the company took her passport. She also added that her employer sexually assaulted her and threatened her if she sought help from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Ivy also revealed that her Chinese employer has a protector from the government and that she would sometimes hear the name ‘Michael Yang’.

“They always say that they have a protector behind them who is government people,” she said.

“I heard about once or twice when my supervisor got mad at me, they mentioned Michael Yang. He didn’t explain to me. He just shouts that at me,” Ivy added.

According to Senator Risa Hontiveros, they still haven’t verified if the “Michael Yang” identified by Ivy is the former economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Right now our main concern is the humanitarian aspect. We haven’t gone to the checking of identities,” she said.

Ivy is among the 30 other Asian nationals who were rescued in Mandaluyong last February 3.

Senator Joel Villanueva previously said that he is seeking the temporary suspension of POGO operations in the country due to the increasing number of illegal POGO workers.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Over 6,000 foreign nationals illegally working in POGO —DOLE

Maris Federez   •   February 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker seeks the suspension of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country.

Senate Committee on Labor Employment and Human Resources Development Chair Joel Villanueva expressed his concern over the rising number of foreign nationals who are illegally working in the Philippines.

“Isuspinde muna ang lahat ng POGO operations hangga’t hindi natin naaayos ang ating mga patakaran,” Villanueva said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said more than 200 POGO offices are now in operation in the country with more than 6,000 foreign nationals who are without alien employment permit (AEP).

This means that these foreign nationals are working illegally in the country, without paying the appropriate taxes.

DOLE said one of their requirements for the issuance of the permits to foreign nationals is the tax identification number (TIN) issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Villanueva said if these foreign nationals are not paying taxes, they are considered illegal, to which Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioner Tobias Javier concurred.

“If the company is not paying the taxes, not properly withholding the taxes from the salaries of the employees, then they are,” Javier said.

The BI added that the special working permits of almost half of these foreign nationals have already expired and that the agency had stopped issuing such permits since September 2019.

As of the latest POGO data, there are around 59 accredited POGO offices in the country with over 120,000 foreign nationals issued permits to work in the industry and over 200 accredited service providers.

Villanueva said the government must streamline the varying data of the concerned government agencies.

He also expressed concern over the billions of pesos of withholding and franchise taxes that POGO owners have left unsettled.

The Department of Finance, meanwhile, said that the government is losing more than Php2-Billion per month or php32-Billion per year due to unpaid taxes by these illegal foreign workers in the POGO industry.

“Yung kapulisan natin, inamin na nag-spike ang criminal activities. Itong mga bagay na ito ay sumasalamin sa hindi natin kahandaan dito sa POGO industry na ito. Klarong-klaro po na dapat pansamantalang itigil muna ito kung naniniwala po tayong kapakanan ng mas nakararami ang ating dapat protektahan,” Villanueva said. — (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

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