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POGOS MUST GO, SAYS ABANTE

Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) companies bring far more harm than good to the country and must be given the boot.

This is according to longtime anti-gambling advocate Manila 6th District Rep. Benny Abante, Jr., who on Monday said:  “The recent spate of crimes involving POGO employees contributes to the growing mountain of evidence that strengthens the case for the prohibition of POGOs in the country.”

Abante lamented that government resources were being utilized to address POGO-related crimes, such as kidnapping, offsetting whatever financial earnings collected by the government.

In the 18th Congress, Abante filed House Bill Number 6701 or the Anti-POGO Act of 2020, which if passed would have prohibited the “conduct of online games of chance or sporting events via the internet using a network and software or program, exclusively to offshore authorized players, within Philippine territory.”

Abante said that he was encouraged by recent statements from ranking members of the Administration who have questioned the merits of allowing POGOs to operate in the country.

“Recently, Department of Finance Sec. Benjamin Diokno echoed a point I have made all along: that the social costs of POGOs far outweigh their benefits,” stressed the lawmaker.

“Maliit ang kita natin dito, pero malaki ang perwisyo na dinudulot nito.”

At the briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee on the proposed 2023 national budget, Diokno pointed out that the revenue collection from POGOs dropped 46% to P3.9 billion in 2021 from P7.18 billion in 2020.

“If you ask my personal opinion on this, let’s discontinue the POGO because of the social cost of the POGO,” said the Finance chief.

Abante lamented that government resources were being utilized to address POGO-related crimes, such as kidnapping, offsetting whatever financial earnings were collected by the government.

“Recently, Department of Finance Sec. Benjamin Diokno echoed a point I have made all along: that the social costs of POGOs far outweigh their benefits.”

“The PNP-CIDG (Philippine National Police  Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) revealed that there may be at least five kidnap for ransom groups targeting POGO workers now operating in the country, and for them to thwart and capture these criminals, resources will have to be mobilized,” explained the lawmaker.

“If that is the case,” argued Abante, “then we may end up losing more revenue than we earn, especially if these kidnapping incidents scare off investors who are thinking of bringing their businesses to the country.”

“That is why I am not surprised that the President is seriously considering banning POGO firms, because even he sees the downsides of allowing these gambling operations in the Philippines.”

Sen. Imee Marcos admitted on Sunday that POGOs were a “hot topic” during the birthday celebration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. She also revealed that some officials present at the gathering conceded that the social costs of POGOs in the country far outweigh their revenue benefits.

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