The Senate Committee on Ways and Means has its latest hearing addressing how PAGCOR’s role seems to be weighing heavily on how the issue of POGOs has gone awry. Upon knowing the latest data, findings and information, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian noted how PAGCOR acting as both regulator and operator is showing a conflict of interest that permeates throughout its decisions and company culture. He cited, “since it is a regulator, it should be strict. On the other hand, it earns, so it is not so strict”.
He summarizes, “if we can’t solve that, if we can’t separate regulation and operation, we can’t separate our problem with POGO”. The issues the senator was referring to were the recent crimes tied to illegal POGOs the most recent of which are kidnapping and forced labour.
Gatchalian’s vantage point
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has now strongly pointed out how there is a conflict of interest on PAGCOR’s role as a regulatory body while still operating its own chain of casinos.
“May conflict of interest talaga sa responsibilities ng PAGCOR. Sa kabilang banda, regulator siya, naghihigpit siya. Sa kabilang banda kumikita siya, maluwag siya (There is indeed a conflict of interest in PAGCOR’s responsibilities. Since it is a regulator, it should be strict. On the other hand, it earns, it is not so strict),” Gatchalian said in a press conference.
“So isa sa nakikita ko kung hindi natin maaayos yan, kung hindi natin mahihiwalay ang regulation at operation, hindi natin mahihiwalay ang problema natin sa POGO (So one of the things I see is if we can’t solve that, if we can’t separate regulation and operation, we can’t separate our problem with POGO),” he said.
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“Dahil nga merong krimen na nakakabit dito sa POGO, ang mga gustong mag-invest sa atin ayaw mag-invest dahil natatakot (Because there is a crime attached to POGO, those who want to invest in us do not want to invest because they are afraid),” he said.
POGO employment current issue
The issue of finding employment for the roughly 20,000 employees that are with POGOs was also raised and will be continued to be addressed moving forward. This shouldn’t be as difficult a task as it is currently portrayed. In hindsight, the senator called attention to how the country would have been better off if efforts weighed more towards attracting and establishing BPOs to come into play.
“Ang BPO walang crime. Pero matagal na siya, almost 20 years na dito sa ating bansa (BPO has no crime. It is already in the country for almost 20 years). We want to attract the right investment,” he said.
Gatchalian said one of his recommendations would be to amend the PAGCOR charter to create one body for regulation and another agency for operation.
“Yun ang aking concern so bibigyan ko ng emphasis ang about 20,000 who are working in the POGO industry. Importante meron silang trabaho lalo na sa mga ganitong panahon (That’s my concern. So I will give emphasis on about 20,000 who are working in the POGO industry. It is important that they should have jobs especially in the kind of situation that we have),” he said.
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POGOs have also not properly declared their capital. The senator pointed out that in one case, the capital declared was at PHP25 million but once an audit was done the final figure reached PHP1 billion.
The senator is currently finalizing his committee report on POGO investigation, which he says will be finished within two weeks.
Looks like, with the way the Senate Committee hearings are going, POGOs are going to leave the country soon. But there might be a glimmer of hope for them to stay should PAGCOR let go of managing their own chain of casinos. It will free up manpower as well as time to fine-tune how POGOs are and find common ground to stand on.
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