Another wave of accusations and opinions against the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) came after President Rodrigo Duterte refused to shut it down entirely. Senator Richard Gordon has clarified what he hopes to see from the government, and hinted at a bribe offered to him. Meanwhile, at least one outlet has gone all out with opinion pieces about the industry.
Gordon alleged on March 10 that he was offered a P25 million ($500,000) bribe to end his investigation of money laundering in the POGO industry. The offer was made by a mutual friend linked to the Rodriguez family, who Gordon has summoned to appear before his money laundering senate committee due to their alleged involvement with online gambling operations, and sneaking money into the country.
Flatly refusing the bribe, Gordon insists the offer was a sign of guilt and that the investigation will continue.
But the senator made sure to refine his messaging from the past week about what should be done with POGOs. As long as crime is eliminated and taxes paid, he’s fine with operations continuing. ‘’I don’t want POGO to closed down immediately. I just wanted it regulated,’’ Gordon said.
Gordon will get his wish on investigating money laundering, at least. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which the senator called out for inaction, suggested POGO operators should have their licenses re-evaluated as concerns continue to mount.
“Based on suspicious transaction reports from 2013 to 2019, the sectoral risk assessment reveals that the estimated value of proceeds, involving Internet-based casinos and service providers (SPs), amounts to PhP14.01 billion ($280 million),” the AMLC wrote.
The watch-dog also noted that POGOs may be lax on their own anti-money laundering controls. “Because the use of gaming accounts is not closely regulated by POGOs, the level of anonymity is high. Thus, accounts may be used for money laundering and fraudulent activities,” said AMLC.
As POGOs continue to dominate the headlines, the Philippine Star used the attention on the topic to publish several editorials on March 11. Andrew Masigan argued that for all the revenue Duterte wants to receive from POGOs, none of it is worth it if Filipinos have to face higher levels of crime. Boo Chanco, taking a survey of several department reports and decision makers, argues that the industry is more trouble than its worth. Finally, Cito Beltran argued that if POGOs are being allowed to continue, cock fighting, which is legal in the country, should be allowed to expand operations, arguing that it also helps the economy, and helps poor Filipinos to lift up out of poverty.