By Zaldy De Layola

ON GUARD. Law enforcers guard a private building in Pasay City on Nov. 6, 2023. A closure order from the Pasay City government is posted on the entrance of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hub that was raided recently for allegedly having prostitution dens. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Monday joined the growing clamor for the government to declare Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) a serious national security threat and to come up with a statute ordering the latter’s total ban in the country due to its proven criminal activities.

He said since he delivered a privilege speech in 2017 to expose the nefarious activities of the POGOs, nothing has changed and the criminal activities turned even worse.

“These POGOs that are banned in mainland China only brought more crimes and shame to our country. Whatever benefit we got from them is nothing compared to what they have put us in. The social costs keep mounting and no amount of taxes or perceived jobs can outweigh them,” said Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs.

China and Chinese legitimate businesses and investors are welcome though, but not the “garbage” that seemed to be being deliberately dumped as if the country is a junkyard for its waste products of illegal gambling, drugs and criminal syndicates, he said.

“These POGOs contributed heavily to the deterioration of our moral fiber. They are fronts to Chinese led criminal syndicates, money-laundering, espionage, cyber hacking, wiretapping, and other illegal activities that gave rise to murder, kidnapping for ransom, rape, prostitution, torture and countless other unspeakable barbaric activities,” Barbers said.

He said the worst part is when POGO money is teamed up with drug money and used to bribe Philippine government officials to buy their silence and cooperation, put Chinese pretending to be Filipinos to high government positions, buy agricultural lands that compromises national food security, and extend their influence on all corners of the government infrastructure.

POGO politics, he said, has complemented narco politics and if the country continues to be blind and refuses to read the writings on the wall, the Filipinos are doomed.

“The attempt by PAGCOR to deodorize POGO by changing its name is futile and even highlights its negative impacts in our society. No change of name can ever erase its legacy of crimes. POGO by any other name stinks just the same,” Barbers said.

He called on all patriotic Filipinos, including Filipino-Chinese, “to join us in cleaning our country of these criminal syndicates involved in illegal drugs and POGO and get our society back from these modern day country snatchers.”

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez also backed the proposal to ban POGOs.

“The negative, evil and harmful effects of POGOS on society far outweigh the revenue they bring in,” he said.

He cited House Resolution 1197 and House Bill 5082, which call for the ban on POGOs. (PNA)