LRay optimistic about DICT’s drive vs illegal online gambling

January 26, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 205 views

CAMARINES Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte is “hopeful of a no-nonsense” government drive against illegal online gaming this 2023, following the assurance last month by Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy that his office would shut down – in tandem with gaming regulators and law enforcers – illicit gambling websites, and then “throw the books” at their errant operators and betting agents as well as the bettors.

Villafuerte recalled that in last December’s Commission on Appointments (CA) committee hearing on the Cabinet posting of this lawyer-IT expert, Villafuerte proposed to – and secured a commitment from – Uy for the DICT to work with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) on clamping down on illegal online gaming sites and filing cases in court against their illicit operators along with the betting agents and bettors.

“We look forward at the onset of 2023 to the DICT working together with Pagcor and NBI on finally putting out of business all illegal gaming websites and then prosecuting their errant operators and betting agents along with the bettors,” Villafuerte, who is CA majority leader, added.

“It’s not enough to just close down these illegal online gaming sites because their operators will most likely open new sites within five minutes of their shutdown,” Villafuerte said. “Criminal cases must be filed immediately against these illicit operators to cripple their lucrative operations. The betting agents and bettors must be prosecuted, too.”

The National Unity Party (NUP) president noted that Executive Order (EO) No. 13, which was issued by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, declared as “illegal gambling” all activities and services directly or indirectly related to gambling but are beyond the territorial jurisdiction or supervision of the government authority that issues the licenses for this activity.

Villafuerte said that PD (Presidential Decree) No. 1869 of 1983, as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 9487 of 2007, mandated Pagcor to operate and license gambling casinos and other similar recreation places within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines – except for the games under the supervision of other franchising entities.

Villafuerte, who had served as three-term Camarines Sur governor, said that under its Charter, Pagcor was tasked to coordinate with other concerned government agencies, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and local government units (LGUs) in taking appropriate action against violators under the law.

In last December’s CA panel hearing on Uy’s Cabinet posting, Villafuerte told the then-Secretary-designate that, “We just want to ask your (Uy) commitment, sana kayo po ang mag-spearhead with Pagcor and NBI not only to close down the sites because you can shut down the sites eh, in five minutes they can put these up again. But my point is cases have to be filed because you can actually log in and put money in an e-wallet and gamble.”

Uy then assured Villafuerte that his office will set up such a task force with the NBI and Pagcor to run after these illegal online gaming operators.

“We will immediately set up a unit in order to address this in coordination with the other agencies like Pagcor po,” said Uy.

Villafuerte then said, “First of all, it’s incumbent upon not only Pagcor but DICT and NBI as well to form a team to crack down on these illicit sites because marami pong… if it’s unregulated, unlicensed it’s prone to fraud. You know you can put in money and you want to play but it’s fraudulent they can just shut down the websites.”

“Secondly, billions of pesos are being lost because of these illegal sites,” said Villafuerte at that December public hearing of the CA committee on ICT chaired by Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria.

Villafuerte said that, “Regarding yung illegal online gaming, we have received a lot of texts about jackpots, alleged jackpots, about all of these and… I asked my staff to investigate this. All the texts that we have been receiving are coming from illegal, unlicensed, unregulated companies and websites.”

“So, you know, actually you can easily know who these people are. So unfortunately nothing is being done about this problem about illegal online gaming sites,” Villafuerte said.

He noted that, “If you will look at the e-sabong (online cockfighting) issue, pumutok yun after years, issues on POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) pumutok after years. Let’s not wait for years and tremendous losses to the Government and fraud and losses to our people if this is not stopped.”

“So sana po mapahinto ninyo ito dahil you have the power not only to shut down these online illegal sites but to actually prosecute and file cases against them. So please kawawa po ang gobyerno, kawawa po ang tao if this goes on. And if you ask our colleagues here, I believe they too have received such complaints… ang dami pong texts and the telcos (telecommunications companies) have already banned the sites.”

He said, for example, that he has read about panalo. com, which uses a comma instead of a dot para to get away apparently with the artificial intelligence (AI) system of the telcos to detect this type of texts. So imbes na jackpot yung com ginagawang zero. So meaning alam mo na yung AI for detecting is already, na umiiwas doon.”

“So may I ask your commitment po sana gawan na ninyo agad ng task force ito para mapahinto na ito,” he added.