Hontiveros: Chinese POGO workers who broke law must be prosecuted before exiting PH

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 09:18 PM | Updated as of Jun 30 2020 09:36 PM

Sen. Risa Hontiveros presides over a public hearing in the Senate on January 28, 2020. Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB

MANILA--Chinese citizens involved in illegal activities in the Philippines should be prosecuted before the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators' (POGO) reported exodus from the country, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday.

The Philippine economy does not need an industry riddled with allegations of crime and irregularities, but POGO workers should also be held accountable if they engaged in illicit activities in the country, Hontiveros said in a statement.

"Huwag natin payagan na pagkatapos nila kumita ng bilyon-bilyon dito sa ating bansa sa loob ng ilang taon, ay biglang tatakbuhan na lang ng mga POGO ang utang nilang buwis na tinatayang aabot sa P70 billion," she said.

(We should not allow them to earn billions here after several years and suddenly run away, leaving behind some P70 billion in unpaid taxes.)

"POGO firms whose management and workers are involved in kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution of women and children, unfair labor practice and other criminal activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Hontiveros led several Senate hearings showing that several Chinese workers in the Philippines have allegedly paid bribes to immigration officials, evaded taxes, and duped some women into working in prostitution dens or illegal back offices.

"PAGCOR should perform their regulatory mandate and see to it that operators of POGO firms, who have closed or are planning to close shop, will not evade their existing liabilities and obligations under our laws," Hontiveros said, noting that the regulatory agency has been "advocating on behalf of POGO firms."

The government should also assist some 30,000 Filipino workers expected to lose their jobs once POGOs leave the country, the senator said.

Prior to the expected exit of POGOs, Hontiveros and several senators have been crafting a law that would ban online casinos in the Philippines.