‘POGO propaganda?’ Philippine Information Agency deletes tweet praising POGOs amid COVID-19 pandemic

May 19, 2020 - 7:57 PM
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People playing poker
Individuals playing poker. (Pexels/Javon Swaby)

The main Twitter account of the Philippine Information Agency on Tuesday tweeted a graphic that juxtaposed the actions of a legal and an illegal Philippine gaming offshore operations (POGO) using the context of novel coronavirus pandemic.

The state-run agency praised the “legal” POGO for reportedly contributing funds to be used by the government in fighting COVID-19 and condemned POGOs illegally operating in the country.

“No sa mga NOGO na ilegal ang operations sa bansa at yes to POGO na tumutulong sa panahon ng sakuna. #LagingHanda #COVID19PH,” PIA tweeted.

The agency later on deleted the tweet.

Filipino online users, however, managed to take a screenshot of it prior to its removal.

A Twitter user claimed that the main Twitter account of PIA deleted it after “20 minutes.”

 

The graphic was also uploaded on the regional accounts of PIA.

Interaksyon was able to screengrab a post shared by the state-run agency in its account dedicated to the Mimaropa Region.

The Mimaropa Region of the Philippine Information Agency tweeting about the Philippine offshore gaming operations. (Screengrab by Interaksyon)

The account dedicated to the Caraga Region also shared a similar post, although it did not upload any graphic.

The tweet and its deletion didn’t escape some Filipinos who questioned the post appearing in a state-run agency that is supposed to be an “official public information arm of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“PIA as POGO Information Agency? Yes to POGO propaganda using government funds. Galing! Bakit (niyo) binura?” a Twitter user said.

A Facebook user couldn’t help but wonder in jest if China—where majority of the POGO workers come from—is “paying” the Philippine government “to do PR (public relations) for them” following the post.

What is the mandate of PIA? 

PIA is an attached unit of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Based on its website, the agency works with PCOO, national government agencies and other public sector entities to communicate their programs, projects and services to Filipinos.

“The PIA’s aim is to disseminate information about government programs, projects, and services to the Filipino public, with the final goal of seeing the quality of their lives improved and empowered to participate in the country’s democratic processes,” it said.

PIA calls itself the “country’s chief information arm” but it is also obliged to serve as a “public relations firm for specific communication campaigns” as requested by some entities including:

  • Agencies under the Office of the President
  • National government agencies
  • Local government units
  • Government-owned and controlled corporations
  • Government financial institutions
  • Special inter-agency committees/councils and government task forces

Controversial sector in gaming industry

POGOs were one of the industries under the gaming sector that was allowed to partially resume operations amid the enhanced community quarantine and the general community quarantine.

On Labor Day, a holiday that was meant to recognize the Filipino working class, the Malacañang announced the resumption of the Chinese-run online casino centers.

It immediately earned condemnation from some lawmakers like Sens. Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan and Joel Villanueva who called for the government to prioritize the welfare of Filipino workers while onsite work remains suspended in most sectors.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque previously said that tax revenues from POGOs will be supposedly used to bankroll the government’s response for the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the social amelioration program.

“Ang aking mungkahi po, at sana nga po ay matupad to, ay lahat po ng kita ng POGO mapunta, hindi lamang sa COVID-19, kundi lalong-lalo na doon sa social amelioration program na inaantay ng marami nating kababayan habang sila ay naghihirap dahil hindi nga makapagtrabaho dahil sa ECQ,” he said on May 4.

Last April, he made a slip of the tongue when he briefly remarked that POGOs provide “cash resource” to President Rodrigo Duterte.

POGOs have been previously linked to various controversies like sex trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering, tax evasion and even alleged spying.

On Monday, broadsheet The Daily Tribune also released a commentary titled “NOGO out, POGO in” where it discussed why illegal businesses in the Philippines have no place in the country.

The opinion piece also quoted House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS, party-list), congratulating the police for an illegal operation against “NOGO” on Thursday last week.

Yap also reportedly said that “NOGO” are destroying the image of legitimate POGOs.

“Sinisira ng mga NOGO ang imahe ng mga legitimong POGO companies sa bansa na fully compliant. Maraming kababayan natin ang natutulungan ng industriya na ito sa pamamagitan ng mga fees at taxes nila. Malaking bagay yun ngayon na kailangan natin ng pondo para makabangon mula sa krisis na kinakaharap natin ngayon,” Yap was quoted as saying.