Panelo claims valid basis for non-suspension of POGOs

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has sufficient basis not to suspend or shut down the operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) in the country, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said yesterday.

    The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) had submitted to Malacañang a report recommending the continued operations of POGO hubs, which the President cited to justify his decision.

    “When the President makes a decision, it’s a decisive one and he has basis to support his decision,” Panelo said, without elaborating on his statement.

    Panelo said the President had told him on Saturday that he had received a report from PAGCOR and had decided not to stop or suspend the operations of online gambling firms, which are mostly operated by Chinese groups.

    Panelo said issues linked to POGOs can be addressed through the passage of needed laws and regulations, as well as the implementation of recommended actions to be taken by concerned agencies.

    Calls for the suspension of POGOs have reached a crescendo following the allegations of illegal activities like tax evasion, money laundering, corruption, illegal recruitment and sex trafficking linked to the online games operations.

    The “pastillas” bribery scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) facilitated by immigration personnel has likewise been credited to the influx of Chinese tourists and casino players to the country, most of whom end up working in POGO hubs.

    Panelo said it is not the POGO operations that are at fault but the operators of the online gambling firms.