PORT FOLIO Column: Ramon Cuyco Column

SOCIAL COSTS OF POGO: Factual or anecdotal?

Oct 25, 2022, 12:19 AM
Ramon Cuyco

Ramon Cuyco


DIGITIZATION is expected to make decision-making in government data-driven, without those hunches, guesswork and tons of bravado planners must possess. And the bureaucratic processes must therefore be intelligence-based. This was what Sen. Francis Escudero was driving at in one Senate Ways and Means Committee hybrid hearing on the economic costs and benefits of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) compared with social costs.

Taken against Finance Secretary Ben Diokno’s concern over “reputational issue” of POGOs, Escudero inquired from DoF Usec Bayani Agabin whether her statement of social costs outweighing the economic costs was based on data, the latter said that Diokno was merely “basing on newspaper reports and anecdotal data.”

Escudero reminded Agabin that based on the data provided by the Philippine National Police, the total number of POGO-related crimes number was less than 50 per year covering access device violation, anti-trafficking in persons, homicide, illegal detention, kidnap-for-ransom, less serious physical injuries, and serious physical injuries.

In 2019, Escudero said, a total of 496,620 crimes were recorded; in 2020, 394 468 and in 2021, 375,731. To be fair to the PNP, it's been decreasing.”

To get back, another factotum of Diokno taunted Escudero on Facebook with:

“POGO is associated with kidnapping, human trafficking and prostitution. We were asked to assign a monetary value to these so that we can say that indeed, the social costs of POGOs outweigh the economic benefits they bring. And so I ask, how much is Sen. Escudero willing to accept to be prostituted or trafficked? That is the social cost of POGO, dear Senator.”

There is no denying that POGOs have provided jobs for Filipinos. Now, what if the POGOs are finally gone—and one of those left jobless resorts to what a “mother” in a TV report did-- trafficking her old children for cybersex. Isn’t that a social cost of joblessness?

Even before the advent of POGOs in Cagayan Valley up north, we already had kidnappings-for-ransom (KFRs), human trafficking, and prostitution. If by chance, some of these crimes were caused by the goons of POGO licensees, the attribution to POGOs as the cause of the menace would just be as cross-eyed, skewed and skewered.

I recall how we blew our top in the eighties when we hear stories of some Saudi skunks and their traffic cops arrogantly dismissing complaints of our compatriots who were victims of traffic accidents with: Had you not come to Saudi, you would not have been bumped by a speeding Saudi car! Crazy! Same with arguments that POGO must be banned because they give rise to crimes.

POGOs are good, but POgoons are bad. Indeed, we need to improve and support the POGOs and deport the POgoons, pronto!

Better yet, we just tweak the POGO into GOPO (Globally Outsourced Productivity Options) where all licensees of POGO will be required to adapt a countryside-based Farm Tourism and Investment Estate capable of providing jobs for the locals and calibrated to spur development in the country’s outback, prioritizing the Ten Poorest Provinces of the Philippines.

Do we ban vehicles just because of vehicular accidents! Do we incinerate a house just because of rats! We don’t shut government simply because of the ails of government! Who will watch the neighborhood in the middle of the night if we abolish the police force just because some of its members are rogues?

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