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

Maris Federez   •   February 11, 2020   •   455

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

Duterte rejects calls to shut down POGOs operations for now

Robie de Guzman   •   March 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte stood by his decision not to shut down Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) despite calls from lawmakers following the alleged influx of dirty money into the country through the online gambling industry.

On Tuesday, Duterte said that POGO operations are clean and generate huge revenues for the government.

“I will assure you under my oath of office as President of this Republic, as elected by you, ‘yang POGO na ‘yan, in so far kami dito, malinis ‘yan,” he said in a speech during an assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Pasay City.

Duterte made the statement following allegations that POGO’s operations in the country have spawned irregularities and increase in crime rates involving its workers, particularly Chinese nationals.

Some immigration officers were also accused of receiving pay-offs to facilitate the entry of fugitives and offshore gaming operations workers from China.

The latest controversy linking the offshore gaming hub was the alleged inflow of dirty money from abroad, which land in casinos and banks in the country. Some senators have alleged that this has become possible due to the proliferation of POGOs in the country.

Duterte, however, said everything that the government earns from POGOs goes to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), and that the industry has generated thousands of local jobs for Filipinos.

“Laro ‘yan para lang sa kabila. But it employs something like 20,000 dito sa Maynila. Dito lang ‘yang POGO eh. Walang pera diyan. Diretso sa PAGCOR ‘yan,” he added.

The chief executive also insisted that there is no corruption in its operations, as it is monitored by the PAGCOR.

He also said the government gets P2 billion worth of revenues from the industry each month which can be used to fund government infrastructure projects and other programs. — RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Gordon on money laundering issue: ‘Mr. President, you are being misled by your people’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 10, 2020

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, Senator Richard Gordon believes that President Rodrigo Duterte is being “misled by his own people” regarding the alleged money laundering in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Corporation (POGO).

“Mr. President, you are being misled by your people. You better check. You’re a lawyer as well, most respectfully,” he said.

On Monday evening (March 9), Duterte said he was not convinced with the money laundering allegations against POGO operations in the country.

“I wish the President wouldn’t make remarks like that especially since a co-equal branch of government is investigating a very, very serious situation where hundreds of millions of dollars are coming into our country,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon, the President should listen to the Senate because of the clear evidence collected from their investigations.

During the Senate hearing last week, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) revealed that P14 billion out of the P54 billion worth of POGO transactions from 2017 to 2019 were linked to “suspicious activities.” —AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Gordon reveals he was offered P25-M bribe to stop POGO money laundering probe

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 10, 2020

Senator Richard Gordon revealed Tuesday (March 10) that someone attempted to bribe him with P25 million so he would drop the investigation on the alleged money laundering through the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).

Gordon, who is also the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said a friend told him that a certain Rodriguez group allegedly offered a donation worth P5 million to the Philippine Red Cross.

They also offered to give the senator P20 million just to stop the public hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the alleged money laundering through POGO.

“Sabi ko, hindi ko ginagawa iyan, (I told them I don’t do that)” Gordon said during an interview with reporters. “I am chagrined. Ang lalakas ng loob ng mga ito na akala nila lahat kaya nilang bilhin (They are very confident to think that they can buy everything).”

The senator also said the bribery attempt only showed that the said family may have been involved in illegal activities.

Gordon added that bulks of money continue to enter the country. He reported that USD 500 million reportedly entered the country on Tuesday (March 10).

Meanwhile, Gordon reiterated they will continue the investigation on the money laundering allegations on Thursday (March 12).—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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