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Senator Kiko Pangilinan says President Rodrigo Duterte should prove that he’s really against crime and corruption by banning Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs).

“Tama naman ang China rito. Kanselahin na ang lisensya ng mga POGO on concerns of criminality and corruption. Iligal ito sa China. Ibig sabihin, mga Chinese criminal ang nagpapatakbo ng mga POGO dito sa Pilipinas,” Pangilinan said just hours before Duterte’s departure to China for a bilateral meeting with China President Xi Jinping.

“It is the Philippine government that is condoning the operations of criminal syndicates. Nakakaduda tuloy kung totoo nga ba anti-crime and anti-corruption campaign ng administrasyong ito dahil pinapayagan ang mga Chinese criminal na malayang magsagawa ng mga iligal na negosyo dito sa atin,” he added.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. decided to suspend the grant of POGO licenses (it has approved 60 operators since 2016) a day after Cambodia announced it was banning offshore casinos catering to Chinese because of money laundering and other crimes.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said his government felt this was not enough: “We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling… (We hope the Philippines) would strengthen law enforcement with China and jointly tackle criminal activities including online gambling and cyber fraud.”

Pangilinan said the last few months saw an increase in crime reports involving POGO players and financiers who broke the law but refuse to be subjected to our laws.

“Meron pa ngang mga ulat ng pansamantalang pagpapakulong sa ating mga pulis at hindi pinapayagang imbestigahan ang mga pinangyarihan ng krimen. Ito ay ng pambabastos na hindi natin dapat pinapalampas,” the senator said.

Pangilinan said the pervasive presence of Chinese POGO workers in our neighborhoods has also fueled racial antagonism among local residents, who rightfully detest some of the foreigners’ dirty habit of smoking, among others.

“Meron ding mga isyu ng pananamantala sa mga manggagawang Tsino, ng mga iresponsableng operator at ng di-pagbayad ng buwis sa industriyang ito. Di dapat binabalewala ang mga ito,” he added.

At the same time, Pangilinan stressed that no less than Philippine defense officials have raised the possibility of these POGOs being used to spy on Filipinos.

“Kritikal ang masasalimuot na isyung nakakabit sa mga POGO operation. Di patas sa kinikita ng gobyerno,” he said.

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