MANILA — Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva has filed a bill seeking to ban all forms of online gambling in the country as the issue of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) drew renewed interest following a series of alleged abductions and killings.
Villanueva’s Senate Bill 1281 or the proposed “Anti-Online Gambling Act” sought to penalize people engaging in online gambling with a jail term of up to 6 months and a fine of up to P500,000.
“This bill seeks to prohibit online gambling and the placing of wagers or bets through the internet or any form of online gambling activities to prevent further deterioration of morals and values, encourage people to work instead of relying on a game of chance, stop addiction and save lives,” Villanueva said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III expressed his support for banning POGO operations in the country, as he dared the Senate and the House majority blocs to unite and prioritize the approval of the measure.
"Given what we’re seeing now as numerous ill effects of POGOs, the Congress has the moral duty to ban POGOs. We should act now," Pimentel said in a statement.
"It will be a bipartisan measure. We can’t afford to dilly-dally on banning POGOs when the nation’s moral fiber and peace and order are on the line. You are the majority. Get your act together. If you say ‘stop POGO’, we will support you," he continued.
He said Malacañang should also heed the call to ban POGO in the Philippines.
“The continued operation of POGOs in the country is dangerous. It is akin to harboring would-be criminals and gangsters that can eventually cause massive disruption of peace and order in the country as we are beginning to see now with the spate of kidnapping incidence and other violent activities related to POGOs,” Pimentel said.
“Kung sa China, where most of these people come from, bawal ang POGOs, why did we open our doors to POGOs?” he added.
Authorities recently rescued 70 foreigners allegedly detained inside a POGO site in Rizal.
About 40 other POGO workers who may have been victims of human trafficking were also rescued in Angeles City, Pampanga, police said.
Sen. Grace Poe meantime called for a “full-on probe on the social costs of POGOs” in the country.
“We should launch a full-on probe on the social costs of POGOs and evaluate whether the country can still accommodate its operations and, if yes, at what cost. I will be filing a resolution on this immediately so that the chamber and the public can explore together its stance on POGOs once and for all,” Poe said.
"It's like POGO as a mother vice gives birth to a whole slew of other vices and crimes,” she added.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is expected to submit to the plenary a report regarding the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs committee’s investigation on POGO operations.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he would wait for Dela Rosa’s report first before making a final decision.