Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Duterte administration to heed the Chinese government’s call to stop online gambling in the Philippines that has given rise to several crimes, such as kidnapping, prostitution, and other illegal activities.
De Lima said the government should seriously look at the issues concerning the rise of online gaming or Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) firms from multiple perspectives to realize its overall impact to the country and the Filipinos.
“Aside from the safety and security risks, I had long forewarned against crimes caused by the influx of POGOs in the country, including kidnapping, extortion, money laundering, and the rise of sex workers and illegal workers in the country,” she said.
“Mr. Duterte should heed these serious concerns that affect his people. He should order an immediate ban on online gambling in the country that causes more harm than good and stop looking at it from an economic or investment perspective,” she added.
Amid calls from Beijing to ban surge of POGO firms in the Philippines, Mr. Duterte recently said that online gambling in the country will still continue supposedly because of the billions of pesos in revenues it generates.
Mr. Duterte stood by his decision amid claims that most POGO firms are run by Chinese loan shark gangs which set up operations overseas to entice their victims to visit the Philippines to gamble because gambling is outlawed in China.
“Gaya ng nangyayari sa Cambodia, may mga kriminal na dumadayo pa sa Pilipinas para kumita ng malaking halaga dahil hindi nila magawa ang mga ilegal na transakyon nila sa bansa nila. We should look at and learn from Cambodia’s experience,” De Lima stressed.
The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group recorded 55 kidnappings, involving Chinese nationals in the country since 2017 to date, most of which were gambling-related.
Just recently, two tourists identified as Li Ning and Yang Yang were reportedly lured by their fellow Chinese nationals to gamble in the country, only to later find themselves as victims of kidnapping-for-ransom after the former gambled all his chips away. The victims were rescued by authorities in a hotel in Pasay city last Sept. 10.
Last Sept.4, Makati police have also uncovered a Chinese-manned brothel specifically catering to Chinese POGO employees, where men could allegedly sign up and pay to take a female sex worker out with them or bring her in a specific room in a condominium complex in Barangay San Antonio.
In the entrapment operation, the cops rescued six Vietnamese women found in four rooms of the said condominium, and discovered that the suspects and the victims were in the country with only travel visas, and had departure tickets before their visas expire.
Last August, meanwhile, a 27-year-old Chinese national identified as Yang-Kang was allegedly handcuffed by his Chinese employer and fell to his death in Las Piñas City. Police suspected that his death was caused by his unpaid debt to his Chinese employer.
“Ilan lamang ito sa mga patong-patong na problemang dulot ng pagdagsa ng POGO firms sa bansa. Hindi ito dapat isawalang-bahala na lamang ng gobyerno,” noted the former justice secretary.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, earlier warned that the establishment of the “Pogo Island” in Kawit, Cavite and in other parts of the country could be the beginning of a creeping Chinese invasion.
In the previous 17th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 751 to investigate the surge of Chinese workers in the Philippines, notably in the POGO industry and asked her colleagues, through Senate Resolution No. 1030, to look into the reported failure of POGO firms to comply with government regulations on foreign workers, notably in paying appropriate personal income taxes.