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'Social menace:' New House bill bans all POGO hubs

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'Social menace:' New House bill bans all POGO hubs
File photo shows a typical office of a licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator or POGO.

MANILA, Philippines — Following moves in the Senate to ban all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, minority lawmakers from the House of Representatives have filed a similar bill that seeks to outlaw and criminalize all POGO operations in the Philippines.

The bill, filed by the three-member Makabayan bloc led by Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers), revokes all licenses granted to POGOs and local gaming agents engaged in offshore gaming operations.

In a statement on Tuesday, Castro described POGOs as a "social menace" and a source of "unimaginable corruption," saying that operators have routinely violated Philippine laws on money laundering, tax evasion and other serious offenses.

"POGOs have brought with them a swarm of crimes," Castro said, citing police raids uncovering instances of rape, murder, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, prostitution, illegal detention and other offenses.

The proposed Anti-POGO Act of 2024 also classifies POGO operations as a predicate crime for money laundering and human trafficking and imposes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of P10 million.

This House bill parallels a similar effort in the Senate, where Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill 2689, which aims to repeal the taxability of offshore gaming established under Republic Act 11590. 

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, has been a vocal critic of the POGO industry due to the surge of crimes that have been linked to POGO hubs.

Senators have renewed calls to ban all POGOs in the country after a recent raid on a POGO compound in Porac, Pampanga yielded an alleged uniform of the Chinese military.

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