Senate scrutinizes regulations on POGO ops amid rise of Chinese prostitution dens in Phl

Maris Federez   •   January 29, 2020   •   464

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is taking on the proposal that seeks to suspend the operation of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country.

The move is due to an increase in Chinese prostitution dens involving POGO employees.

In the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality hearing on Tuesday (Jan. 28), Senator Risa Hontiveros presented several screenshots of an alleged group chat in a messaging app, WeChat, where the transaction is taking place.

Hontiveros said girls with a corresponding package price for their “services” are being offered to clients.

The lady senator also presented alias Carina, a minor who had become a victim of human trafficking.

Alias Carmina claims that she was made to believe that she would be working as a massage therapist. She found out later that her being a massage therapist also comes with what she said as “extra service”.

“Ang boss ko doon ay isang Chinese national at asawa niyang Filipina. Kinuhanan ako ng picture na sa pagkakaalam ko ay in-upload sa mga chat sa internet,” alias Carina said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said they have noticed the mushrooming number of Chinese prostitution dens since the establishment of POGO in the country, with POGO employees as clients.

The Makati City Police also said that some of the workers in the prostitution dens that they had rescued did not have working visas and were just holding tourist visas.

“‘Yung mga passport nila, at saka ‘yung mga visas, hawak-hawak ng mga maintainers. Hindi nila binibigay. ‘Yun ‘yung karamihang problema namin diyan, ma’am,” said PMaj. Gideon Ines, chief of the Makati City Police Criminal Investigation Unit.

Hontiveros said that they will also check how far the extent of the Chinese prostitution industry in the country has gone.

The Makati City Police called on business establishment owners to coordinate with authorities for the arrest of operators of Chinese prostitution dens in the city.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said that they will launch an investigation on the reported Chinese prostitution that has affected the POGO industry in the country.

“We will have that investigated, if that is true then we will have to do something about it, like stopping prostitution and arresting those who are involved in it,” said Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sec. Salvador Panelo. — (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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