With no Pagcor third-party auditor, Gatchalian says all POGOs should close

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 28) — Senate Committee on Ways and Means chairman Win Gatchalian believes Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs should be shut down, now that there is no third party auditor monitoring their income.

Early this month, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) terminated its consultancy contract with the Global ComRCI consortium, which it tapped in 2017 to audit the gross gaming revenues of POGOs in accordance with Republic Act No. 11590.

The law states that Pagcor "shall engage the services of a third-party audit platform that would determine the gross gaming revenues or receipts of offshore gaming licensees." This is to ensure that proper taxes and regulatory fees are being paid.

Asked if all POGOs should be ordered shut now that the law is not being complied with, Gatchalian said he personally believes so.

"There's a violation of the law if you ask me. Meaning, dapat wala nang mag-operate na POGO [there should be no more POGOs operating] because there's a violation of the law," Gatchalian said.

"Of course, we have to discuss that… That's' my own interpretation," he added.

After four Senate hearings, Gatchalian recommended the immediate closure of all POGOs. While Pagcor and the Bureau of Internal Revenue collected some ₱45.61 billion from POGOs from 2018 to 2022, Gatchalian said money cannot outweigh the social costs.

However, Gatchalian's committee report still lacks signatures. It has seven signatures as of Friday, but it needs three more for it to be sponsored in the plenary for debates and voting. On Tuesday, Gatchalian said there has been a development but did not disclose details.

Senator Sonny Angara, committee vice chairman, said legitimate POGOs should be given more time to close shop, but Gatchalian said even the duly licensed ones have been involved in various crimes.

He said while POGO-related crimes have targeted foreign nationals, the government should not wait for Filipinos to be victimized before taking action.

"Hindi ko pwedeng i-negotiate ang buhay ng kababayan natin dahil kung may ma-kidnap diyan, kung merong mapatay, responsibility natin yun. Ang knowing na itong negosyong ito ay may criminal activity, hindi ko makokonsensya yun e," Gatchalian said.

[Translation: I cannot negotiate the lives of our fellow Filipinos because if someone is kidnapped or killed, that is our responsibility. My conscience won't allow me to do that knowing that this kind of business is involved in criminal activities.]