POGO inmates escape jail, operations restart questioned


The sources of Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) scandals seem to have an endless supply of material. If the online gambling industry, and the people of the Philippines, have any hope to gain some semblance of stability, law and order, it will fall on Philippines authorities to do their job. With inmates escaping jail, and POGOs allegedly resuming operations without receiving authority to do so, that seems like a lost cause.

News broke on June 24 that six Chinese inmates at the detention facility inside Camp Karingal had escaped on June 22. The inmates had originally been arrested during a December 19, 2019 raid, in which 342 Chinese Pogo employees (although the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation would now classify the firm as a NOGO) were arrested for working without a proper visa.

The six detainees didn’t have their freedom for very long. They were arrested at 9:30 pm on June 23.

As a result of the negligence of the facilities guards, Quezon City Policy Department Chief Brig. General Ronnie Monetjo has announced 15 police officers would be relieved of their duty. While it’s unclear exactly how the inmates escapes, and what penalties the officers will face, the guards will face criminal charges for their negligence.

It’s not much better for the authorities at either PAGCOR or the Department of Finance (DOF). After Senator Joel Villanueva suggested that POGOs were being given permission to resume operations without settling their tax debts, a requirement established by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III responded:

“We are conducting investigations of those allegations. It’s probably true, but you know, also because of the lockdown, our people cannot really go around so much eh, but we are monitoring.”

It’s not for a lack of effort though that this might have slipped by the DOF. “It’s not that (POGOs) only we’re monitoring,” Dominguez said. “We’re also monitoring the illegal illicit cigarette factories.” A shortage of legal cigarettes, combined with price gouging on permitted cigarette brands during the pandemic, made this a sudden issue the DOF had to tackle.

This comes after news that 11 POGOs have been allowed to resume operations, having fulfilled all of their tax obligations to the BIR. If Sen. Villanueva is correct, and the POGOs were given a go ahead to restart without having paid their taxes, there will be a lot of questions and finger pointing with all agencies involved.