Illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator hub in Las Piñas City (Photo courtesy of PNP-Anti Cybercrime Group)

MANILA – An official of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) prefers the gradual phaseout of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) rather than going for a total ban.

At the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City, PAOCC spokesperson Dr. Winston Casio said a gradual phasing out and a transitional mechanism would lead to the total eradication of the so-called scam farms.

“So, siguro (maybe) before we direct ourselves to a discussion on total ban, we could probably revisit discussions of phaseout,” Casio said.

He clarified that decisions on POGO is a policy issue.

“That is way… way, way, way above my pay grade. So, on matters like that, we would defer to, first our Executive Secretary (Lucas Bersamin) who’s the chairman of our commission,” he said.

Whatever recommendations Bersamin would provide President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., being the chief policymaker, “then we’ll leave it to him. We defer to his decision.”

He said only 42 POGOs are legally operating in the Philippines – one in Kawit, Cavite and the rest in Metro Manila.

He said 298 POGO licenses have been canceled by the government but some are still operating illegally in different parts of the country.

“So kung mayroon ka sa (if there are some in) Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol all the way to Mindanao and Central Visayas, ibig sabihin lahat iyon ilegal (then all of those are illegal),” Casio said.

“A good number of them have gone underground,” he added. (PND/PNA)