Senate sets another inquiry on illegal POGOs

Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chairperson Risa Hontiveros (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)
Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chairperson Risa Hontiveros (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality is set to hold another inquiry on July 10 following reports on the alleged involvement of a former cabinet official in the issuance of licenses to illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairman and chief executive officer Alejandro Tengco has been invited to shed light on his previous statement that a former high ranking government official in the previous administration “tried to facilitate the grant of gaming licenses to some illegal POGOs that have been raided”.

“We are calling a next hearing and I hope the PAGCOR chief deems it right forum to reveal what he knows. Whoever the ex-cabinet official turns out to be, the fact remains: POGOs are being used as a legal cover for scam hubs,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Monday.

Tengco confirmed his attendance at the Senate hearing.

The committee has been investigating several illegal POGOs in the country, including the latest raided POGO hubs in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga.

Hontiveros said it was proven in the previous Senate hearings that although legal licenses have been issued by PAGCOR, criminal activities are happening in POGOs in the country.

For his part, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said PAGCOR must reveal all information and personalities involved in the operations of illegal POGOs.

“Dapat nating papanagutin ang mga kasapi ng gobyerno na dawit sa mga iligal at kriminal na aktibidad (Government officials involved in illegal and criminal activities must be held accountable),” he said.

Last Sunday, Senate President Francis Escudero said the former official should be unmasked in the next Senate hearing if he violated the law so not all former “high ranking cabinet officials will be looked upon with suspicion.”

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III echoed similar call on PAGCOR's revelation, saying the PAGCOR should reveal the identity of the former official.

"They have infiltrated not only the business and gaming industries but also our government, allegedly with local and even high-ranking officials serving as their protectors,” Pimentel said.

Last Saturday, Tengco said he would reveal in a proper forum the identity of the former Cabinet member.

Tengco added he would also unveil the circumstances that led to the proliferation of illegal POGOs in the country

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers urged Tengco to also disclose the names of the legitimate POGOs.

“POGOs, whether licensed, legitimate or illegal, are nothing but fronts for criminal activities. Ranging from money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, protecting criminal syndicates engaged in murders, kidnapping, torture, rape and up to engaging in POGO politics, name it and surely it is all there. POGO is the one-stop shop of criminal activities,” Barbers said in a separate statement.

“If we continue to allow their operations, we will all be consumed by its corrupt and criminal system until it becomes the accepted norm and our society becomes worthless,” he added. (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)

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