Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

DoJ eyes summary deportation of illegal POGOs

Sep 24, 2022, 12:11 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Writer/Columnist

Workers of illegal Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGOs) will be summarily deported, which is the “logical” move for the government instead of making them languish in jail which would create a humanitarian crisis.

“Based on our procedures now, the filing of cases is not compatible with deportation. If you file a case, then we cannot deport them because they have to be under the process of the law,” he said in a radio interview. We have a choice to either file a case against them (which DoJ shuns keeping 20,000 in makeshift jails) or summarily deport them.

“Summary deportation is the only option. We will deport them for overstaying,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told the Inquirer.

He bared this plan during the Senate hearing for the annual DoJ budget as he reported 216 illegal POGOs whose permits to operate had already been canceled by PAGCOR. He estimated that some 40,000 employees might be staying in the Philippines illegally.

“We know where they all are and we know where the offices are, so it’s a matter of time before we resolve everything here,” he said adding that the government is ready to expel 280 illegal POGO employees in its custody.
We are scheduled to catch more people … We don’t want to arrest them simultaneously because this can result in a humanitarian crisis if we can’t deport them immediately. So we want to calibrate all the movement so it would be logical … like the schedule of [flights],” he said.

DOJ spokesperson lawyer Mico Clavano told reporters that Remulla was meeting with Chinese officials to discuss coordination efforts between Manila and Beijing to bring back to China workers in the industry who were either undocumented, overstaying, or with an expired visa.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila welcomed the Philippines’ move to take strong measures to crack down on crimes related to POGOs “and tackle its root cause so as to address the social ills in a sweeping manner.”

“It is reported that most of the recent crimes targeted at Chinese citizens in the Philippines are related to POGOs. It is appreciated that relevant Philippine law enforcement agencies rescued several Chinese citizens and shut down some POGO companies during their recent operations,” the embassy, quoting Huang, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Last week, authorities rescued 43 Chinese nationals reportedly working under “human trafficking conditions” for a POGO in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Chinese assistance

Huang said the Chinese government firmly opposes and takes tough measures to combat gambling.

Citing Chinese laws and regulations, he pointed out that gambling in whatever form by Chinese citizens, be it online or overseas, was illegal.

“Crimes induced by and associated with online gambling not only harm China’s interests and China-Philippines relations but also hurt the interests of the Philippines,” the statement added.

Economic harm

Now comes, Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House ways and means committee saying that a total ban on POGOs amid recent kidnappings and illegal activities involving Chinese nationals might be harmful to the country’s economy.

Salceda, an economist, likened it to burning down a house “just to kill the rat inside.” He said a blanket ban on POGOs will be seen as arbitrary.

He proposed that government wields its full weight of the law against illegal gaming but the policy must not give the entire industry up just because of the bad actors. “All industries have bad actors.”

He suggested keeping POGOs within “specific zones that are ring-fenced from the rest of the country. New licenses will be in these zones, and existing licenses will be allowed only to complete their leases. Any offshore gaming that operates outside such zones will be considered illegal,” he said.

My take

Easier said than done, Joey. Bad eggs always find a way to infiltrate the good ones. Enforcement has and will always be a problem in this country.


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