Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers claims that 80 percent of all Philipine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are illegal.
Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said 46 of the 58 POGOs licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) were not registered locally or abroad. “I may not be too accurate but I am certain that most if not all of the 46 POGOs have no legal personality because their names are not found in the business/company name registry in the Philippines or abroad,” Barbers said in a statement.
“Para silang (POGOs) jeepney o bus na kolorum operators – yung mga bumibiyahe sa isang partikular na ruta pero walang prankisa mula sa LTO (Land Transportation Office). These kolorum or ‘ghost’ POGOs operate in the Philippines but they are not registered in our country as a business entity,” he added.
Based on investigative reports and a study made by the United Nations, Barbers said POGOs were patterned after the Italy-based mafia and drug syndicates from Macau and Cambodia by using their online gaming firms primarily as a money laundering tool.
“This early, I call on our financial intelligence and law enforcement units of the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency), the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) to dig deeper into the personalities behind the gambling enterprise of both the POGOs and the casinos that were granted permits or license to operate by the Pagcor all over the country,” Barbers said.
Barbers believed that a closer scrutiny of POGOs could lead to connections to illegal drugs and organized crimes. He said Pagcor should not only think of the financial gains but also the security, social, immigration, labor and related problems created by these illegal operations.
Barbers said Pagcor should have made a due dilligence review before granting licenses to POGO applicants, like determining first if they are local or foreign based.
“Are they of good repute and are not associated with persons with questionable reputation, character, honesty and integrity?” he said.