Minority bloc wants House to probe POGO after work on 2020 budget

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2019 04:53 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2019 05:30 PM

MANILA - The House Minority Bloc called on the House to investigate the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) after approving the 2020 National Budget. 

The House is more than halfway done in the plenary deliberations.

“We are hopeful that after the budget deliberations, the House can tackle this and other pressing issues,” House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. said during his weekly press conference. 

Abante recalled that he, together with three colleagues, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-list Rep. Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva, Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, and Manila 1st District Rep. Manuel Luis Lopez, filed House Resolution No. 337. 

The bill urges the appropriate House committee to conduct an inquiry “on the allegations of unregistered foreign workers, non-payment of income taxes relative to POGO, and the related issues on the effective implementation of Section 25, 1997 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code), Immigration Rules and Regulations, and the Labor Code of the Philippines due to the unprecedented influx of foreign workers for the POGO Industry” with the end view of amending laws to allow the government to effectively regulate the industry and to ensure that the government is able to properly collect revenues from its operations. 

“Bukod po sa mga isyu na binanggit ko, may isyu din tungkol sa lugar kung saan itinatayo ang mga sinasabing POGO (Aside from the issues I mentioned, there is also another issue on where the POGO hubs are being established)," he said.

He said the hubs, according to the Department of National Defense, are located near strategic installations such as Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, the Air Force headquarters in Pasay City, the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City, the Philippine Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, and Sangley Point in Cavite.

Abante said they have three major issues they want to address in their inquiry. These are: 

- status of the estimated 120,000 foreign nationals working for the POGO industry and the legal issues regarding their entry; 

- the lost revenues from uncollected income taxes that could amount to some P2 billion, according to the Department of Finance; and,

- the possible threat to national security posed by the locations of POGO hubs.