The ongoing Senate investigation being conducted in connection with a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) firm in Bamban, Tarlac that was raided by the authorities for alleged illegal activities has opened up a can of
worms that might just signal the end of offshore online gambling operations in the country. While it may be argued that these foreign funded and foreign operated online gaming activities have contributed hugely to the economy of the country it may be said also that these online gaming operations run by foreigners, a lot of them Chinese nationals, have spawned so many illegal activities that are blatantly contrary to law.

On the side of government, especially the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) which is a Government Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC), it is perplexing to discover that despite the latter’s supposed regulatory prowess it failed miserably to detect anomalies in the way these POGOs have been conducting their operations in the country allowing some of these POGOs to engage in other shenanigans such as scamming
activities, human trafficking, serious illegal detention, and probably even espionage.

As a regulatory agency PAGCOR should have been more stringen n implementing its procedure of monitoring and evaluating POGO applicants both before they are issued a license to operate and during their actual operation. The same can also be said for local government units who should have been more circumspect in issuing their Letter of No Objection (LONO) as required by PAGCOR regulations before a permit is issued to the POGO firm. Unfortunately what happened in the case of the POGO hub in Bamban, Tarlac is the possibility of the LGU, through its Mayor, of being in cahoots and being involved in the online gaming operation and thus the facility and laxity by which the LONO was issued.

What happened in Bamban, Tarlac is certainly an eye-opener on how POGOs, while contributing to the country’s
coffers, is also a generator of wrongdoings and criminal acts that directly affect the peace and order situation in society. If the government wants to continue deriving benefits from these POGOs then it should impose more stringent regulations and tighter controls to ensure that only legitimate and responsible online gaming operators are allowed to conduct their business in the country.

The real concern of course is the fact that since those involve with POGOs are probably those personalities banned in China, since online gambling is illegal in that country, then it follows that they would be more susceptible to being involve in other illegal activities here, which in this case is what probably happened in Tarlac. The real fear of course is if these POGO hubs are also involve in other kinds of illegal activities but this time with the participation and consent of their government such as the possibility of their being used for espionage by the Chinese government.

Considering that POGOs use computers and the internet for their operations it would be very easy for them to be coerced into working for their government by allowing agents of their state access to their computers for use in hacking and other types of cyber espionage. If the threat to our national security far outweighs the benefits to be derived from these POGOs then the government might as well start permanently closing these establishments. In fact early this year the House games and amusements committee in Congress has already approved on its level a
bill banning POGOs in the country because of the numerous incidents of crimes linked to them to include not only human trafficking but also forcible abduction, homicide, theft, robbery , extortion, physical injuries, swindling, investment scam and even cryptocurrency scam.

The Senate likewise, thru its Committee on Ways and Means, made a recommendation for the permanent banning of POGOs in the country. The recommendation also included for Congress to enact a law that would separate the regulatory functions of PAGCOR from its operations. All of these must now be carefully considered by the government if it seeks to fulfill its mandate of protecting its citizens from the depredations brought about by POGO operations in the country.

Amianan Balita Ngayon