MANILA, Philippines — The looming closure of some Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in the country “should not allow them to escape accountability and justice,” Senator Risa Hontiveros stressed on Tuesday.
Instead of “advocating on behalf of Chinese-run” POGOs, Hontiveros enjoined the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to perform its regulatory mandate and ensure that POGO firms which have closed or are planning to close shop “will not evade their existing liabilities and obligations” under the country’s laws.
“Let’s be clear: Hindi kailangan ng Pilipinas ang isang industriya na walang ibang hatid kundi krimen, pang-aabuso, at pambibiktima ng Pilipino, lalo na laban sa kababaihan at mga menor de edad,” she said in a statement.
(The Philippines does not need an industry that has brought nothing but crimes, abuses, and victimizes Filipinos, especially women and minors).
“POGO firms whose management and workers are involved in kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution of women and children, unfair labor practice and other criminal activities should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the senator added.
“The sudden closure of these POGOs should not allow them to escape accountability and justice. Huwag natin payagan na pagkatapos nila kumita ng bilyon-bilyon dito sa ating bansa sa loob ng ilang taon, ay biglang tatakbuhan na lang ng mga POGO ang utang nilang buwis,” she said.
(The sudden closure of these POGOS should not allow them to escape accountability and justice. We should not let them leave behind their tax liabilities after earning billions here in our country for years).
Hontiveros also called on the government to prioritize assistance to the around 30,000 Filipinos, who she pointed out will be displaced by the sudden departure of their POGO employers.
“With unemployment among Filipinos already at a record high, the Department of Labor and Employment should help these workers immediately find new jobs, businesses or other sources of income,” she said.
“The few billion pesos they claim POGOs have brought into our economy are not enough to justify the abuse of Filipino women and children, the corruption of our border officials, and the rampant criminality they have brought to our streets. Ngayong may krisis, unahin natin ang kapakanan ng ating kababayan, hindi ang kita ng mga dayuhan,” she added.
(Now that there is a crisis, let’s prioritize the welfare of the Filipino people, and not the earning of foreigners).
In April, Hontiveros filed a Senate resolution seeking to end POGO operations in the country and to utilize the billions of its unpaid taxes for the government’s coronavirus response.
During a hearing of the Senate Labor Committee last February, an official from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) bared that POGOs in the country have P50 billion in franchise, corporate and other tax liabilities.
POGOs were earlier allowed to resume partial operations by Pagcor amid the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions since it was classified under the business process outsourcing industry.
Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo had also said that only 30 percent of POGOs’ workforce will be allowed to report back for work under “strict protocols.”
But POGOs would need to settle tax obligations first before they are allowed to resume operations.
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