Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s show of support for the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operator (POGO) industry on March 9 came at a time when several senators were calling for investigations, and possible shutdown the sector entirely. Although Duterte’s decision was made based on economic factors, and on advice from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), at least one senator is suggesting he should reconsider.
Senator Richard Gordon took to the media on March 10 to plead with Duterte publically. Regarding comments Duterte made, dismissing concerns that POGOs may be involved with money laundering, Gordon said:
“I wish the President wouldn’t make remarks like that especially since a co-equal branch of government is investigating a very, very serious situation where hundreds of millions of dollars are coming into our country.” He added, “I think he’s being misled. Mr. President, you are being misled by your people. You better check, you’re a lawyer as well, most respectfully.”
Duterte had just recently declared he would not shut down POGOs, citing their economic importance to the country. He also specifically dismissed allegations of money laundering, claiming he saw no evidence of that activity.
Despite Duterte’s dismissive tone to investigations, Gordon insists he will keep investigating. “We don’t stop because this is a democracy, we don’t stop our investigation just because somebody is saying ‘No, that’s not true.’” Gordon told reporters. “What will happen then to the investigation being conducted here? We won’t do them anymore because of someone, we won’t act on it? That should not happen.”
This comes just a day after Duterte indirectly addressed Gordon’s money laundering and corruption concerns. “I assure you, I assure you that every centavo that can be found there in gaming supervised by PAGCOR, are accounted for. There is no corruption there and I will not consent,” Duterte told reporters.
With Duterte having made up his mind, talking heads in the country have already started shifting their focus away from the alleged problems of the POGO industry, and towards problems it could help solve. Erwin Tulfo wrote that revenues gained from taxing POGOs should be used to help combat the Covid-19 coronavirus, which has seen its number of confirmed cases triple in the Philippines in the last week.