EconomyEditor's PickSenator irked by Pagcor inaction in offshore gaming worker’s abduction

January 23, 2023

A SENATOR on Monday called out the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for failing to regulate offshore gaming operations and stem abductions involving mostly Chinese workers in the Philippines.

During a Senate hearing, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said the regulator had yet to act on a kidnapping incident more than a month since it happened on Dec. 14.

“The same people are operating, the same entities are still accredited by Pagcor, and you’re just telling us that you fined them P500,000 hoping that they will change morally?” he told Pagcor officials.

The senator was referring to the penalty slapped on two offshore gaming companies mentioned by Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares in a privilege speech last month.

“And then you sent us a position paper saying ‘Let’s continue with Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) and regulate them,” Mr. Gatchalian said. “Do you think this is effective regulation? After 30 days, you’ve done nothing.”

Ms. Poe earlier detailed an incident where a victim — a friend of her sister-in-law — was tricked into applying for a job that eventually sold her to Chinese nationals.

Pagcor Assistant Vice-President Jessa Mariz R. Fernandez told the hearing they had yet to coordinate with other agencies about the incident. “Based on news reports that we have heard, the company that was found to be in that building was already imposed penalties.”

“Rest assured that this specific kidnap-for-ransom case… will be dealt with more severely once we get the information within the day,” she added.

Ms. Fernandez said they could suspend or cancel the accreditation of implicated licensees and service providers, as well as deport and file charges against foreign nationals involved. Pagcor was still waiting for a formal report on the second service provider, she added.

“Although this has not been proven and it remains at the investigative stage, we will look into what can be done by Pagcor to ensure that these service providers will follow our laws and other rules and regulations set in place,” she said.

“Shouldn’t you have been the one to take action to investigate and… kick them out immediately?” Mr. Gatchalian asked. “These are embroiled in kidnap-for-ransom [activities]. No amount of penalty will stop them from doing this.”

The senator read the position paper sent to him by PAGCOR, noting that they pitched for strict regulation of offshore gaming operations rather than its termination.

“I don’t understand why you are advocating regulation but you, yourself, are inefficient when it comes to regulation,” he said.

“You have already been given a lead and then you’re still waiting. It would have been better if you at least went to the police station, got the reports, and took your own action,” he added. “Why wait?” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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