MANILA -- A senator who is leading an inquiry into alleged illegal activities tied to POGOs that cater to mainland Chinese said Wednesday the Philippines' closeness to China could be holding authorities back.
Sen. Richard Gordon cited the case of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which exercised "some tolerance" by allowing the entry of $447 million (P22.6 billion) without question.
"Sinumbong na ng Customs, hindi pa din gumagalaw ang AMLC... Hindi mo pinapahuli e 'di may tolerance," Gordon said.
(Customs called their attention yet the AMLC did not move. It did not have them caught, so there's tolerance.)
"This would never happen if the administration was not too soft on China... There is a patina of doubt na dahil nga malapit si Presidente sa China, kaya yung mga tao, 'Hindi ako gagalaw kasi 'yung Presidente ko malapit sa Chinese," he said.
(There is a patina of doubt that just because the President is Close to China, people will not move because the President is close to the Chinese.)
Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs were established after Duterte assumed office in 2016 and repaired ties between Manila and Beijing that were strained by disputes in the South China Sea.
Gambling is illegal in China and Beijing has urged Manila to crack down on crime syndicates that prey on Chinese nationals. Past Senate investigations have uncovered prostitution and passport forgery rackets linked to POGOs.
"There is a failure in our foreign policy but it is not the fault of our DFA Secretary. Ang dami na niyang protesta e," Gordon said referring to Foreign Affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr. Manila's top envoy has filed several protests over China's actions in disputed waters.