June 14, 2024 Camille P. Balagtas 83 views

ENEMY inside the gate?”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian reiterated his call for a total ban on POGOs as he sided with Defense Secretary Gilberto Gibo Teodoro who reportedly said that the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations are a national security concern as these weaken the country’s political, economic and social fabric due to their corrupting the country’s financial standing and the ratings.

Gatchalian said this view of Teodoro is factual and realistic because of POGOs corrupting influence on society and politics with the various criminals activities that goes with it.

“Ibangga natin ito sa over all na nangyayari sa bansa. Dapat i analyze natin ng maige at pag isipan lalo na at may nangyayari sa West Phil Sea at ngayon ay may nadiskubre na mga military uniform ng PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) sa mga pogo hubs na ito,” Gatchalian said as he insisted that POGO is inextricably linked to everything about China and the West Philippine Sea.

Gatchalian pointed out that all evidences are there already including the military uniforms, boots, medals, hacking equipment and surveillance equipment which he maintained is really scary and should not be ignored by our authorities.

Gatchalian also criticized the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation for continuously ignoring the negative effects of POGO insisting that this must be the responsiblity of the agency to regulate POGO which they failed to do so because of their dual role — to regulate and to operate.

Gatchalian argued that as a rule, regulators should not be allowed to operate as that is an inherent conflict of interest.

Gatchalian explained that the social costs of POGO is far greater than whatever income that PAGCOR is getting since it has consistently comes with sex and human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, all kinds of scams, hacking and spying on government websites.

Teodoro reportedly said: “China may be behind these illegal POGOs as a tactic to weaken an enemy.”

“And considering that China and Philippines are at odds over territorial claims at the West Philippine Sea in the South China Sea, we should be wary. Dapat pag isipan natin ito ng maige,” Gatchalian said.

The Armed Forces said it is conducting a probe to determine if illegal POGO operations are a threat to national security.

Authorities have raided a number of illegal POGOs and were able to seize Chinese military uniforms at a POGO hub in Porac, Pampanga as well as high-powered firearms and a China flag and Chinese military medals.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año for his part said the National Security Council (NSC) does not view POGO as a national security threat that warrants the intervention of the Armed Forces.

For Senate President Francis Escudero the view of Teodoro that illegal POGOs should be closed down, but the plight of legal ones should be discussed with PAGCOR, is just right and proper.

“I agree with Secretary Teodoro who seems to be referring to illegal POGO operations because he said that ‘do not operate as intended.’ In fact, all illegal POGOs should be closed whether they are close to our military bases or not, and their perpetrators arrested,” Escudero said as he urged authorities like NSC to sit down with PAGCOR in order to discuss the matter thoroughly.

The Senate president explained that his position ever since is to allow legal POGO to operate as long as it is being well regulated.

Escudero has been vocal in saying that the government should not stop the POGO industry, as he said that all forms of gambling, even those run by local corporations, should instead be stopped, if the intention was really to get rid of gambling activities in the country.

Escudero said the so-called criminal activities like money laundering, human trafficking, prostitution, and illegal drugs, among others, also happen in locally-run casinos, thus POGOs should not be singled out.

However, Senator Risa Hontiveros supported the view of Teodoro that POGO is really a national security threat and should not be ignored.

Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, explained that POGOs can be future military bases for China considering that these military uniforms are authentic according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Hontiveros said the POGO hub in Tarlac is allegedly being used as site for conducting surveillance and hacking activities against our own government websites which she said is not ordinary and very alarming.

For Senate president pro tempore Jose Jinggoy Estrada the government must not waste their time in closing down unlicensed POGOs operating in various parts of the country.