Hontiveros bared the possibility of alleged troll farms in favor of POGOs amid resumption of operations

May 5, 2020 - 6:52 PM
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Risa Hontiveros
Sen. Risa Hontiveros proposed a measure that requires employers to treat interns as temporary employees, providing them with an allowance. (Hontiveros Office/Released)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised the possibility of the existence of trolls defending the Philippine offshore gaming industry or POGOs days after the national government authorized the partial resumption of their operations. 

On Tuesday, Hontiveros shared a graphic with screenshots of the copy-paste arguments on Facebook which defend the operations of POGO companies amid the alleged controversies against them.  

May full page ad kahaponngayon ito naman. May troll farm ba ang POGO? Not surprised. Dahil gusto ko silang ipasara at singilin ng P50 billion na di nabayaran, nagkalat din ang fake news laban sa akin,” Hontiveros said.  

Hontiveros, one of the lawmakers who strongly opposed the POGO industry’s reopening amid the pandemic, was referring to the full-page advertisements of POGOs that appeared on broadsheets.

These advertisements bear the logo of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporationthe primary agency tasked to manage POGO firms in the country. 

Hontiveros also shared a graphic with the screenshot of the advertisement titled: “The Truth about POGO: A Primer” on social media on May 4.  

This full-page ad on POGOs appeared on the Manila Times and Philippine Star today. Is PAGCOR doing PR work for POGO now?…

Posted by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Sunday, May 3, 2020

The industry was temporarily suspended after the enhanced community quarantine was imposed on March 17, which banned all on-site work and any social gathering. PAGCOR also issued guidelines banning online gambling. 

On May 3, Hontiveros also decried a quote falsely attributed to her. It was about the 3% increase in the PhilHealth premium contributions of overseas Filipino workers as mandated in the Universal Health Care Law.  

“Fake news alert! Hindi ko po sinabi itoDumami agad ang mga fake news na ganito against me pagkatapos kong kontrahin ang pagbubukas ng mga POGO,” Hontiveros said on May 3.  

During quarantine period, some Filipinos have observed the proliferation of alleged troll farms with copy-paste arguments or stories that seemed to defend President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese nationals.  

Hontiveros said that supposed payment for these alleged troll forms could have been used for the response efforts in the COVID-19 crisis.  

Sayang yung perang pinambayad sa trolls. Sana ginamit na lang natin sa COVID-19 response,” she said. 

PAGCOR and POGOs  

Hontiveros questioned PAGCOR over the newspaper advertisements on POGOs, noting that it is a regulatory body not a public relations company.

“Is PAGCOR doing PR work for POGO now? PAGCOR is a regulatory body. Why is it lobbying for the POGO industry?” she asked 

The senator also expressed worry over the primer’s intent to clear the controversies hounding POGOs.

Nakakabahala na mukhang may intent to dismiss the investigations the Senate has done with regard to POGOs’ links to prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering!” she said.  

“Sana ginamit nalang ang perang pinanggastos sa ad para sa COVID-19 response natin,” she added. 

PAGCOR introduced the POGO industry to the Philippines in 2016, which caused the sudden influx of arrivals from China, where the deadly new pathogen supposedly originated. 

However, prior to the lockdown, these gaming firms, which were mostly run by Chinese operators, came under fire over alleged crimes such as a new sex trafficking network, kidnapping, money laundering, and a P50-billion worth of tax evasion. 

READ: Telegram group chats in BGC point to sex trafficking network catering to Chinese

Because of these allegations, Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 368 to completely disallow the industry to reopen again.  

“Even the Chinese government are cracking down on cross-border gambling and money laundering, and that the Philippines’ continued tolerance and acceptance of POGOs shows a lack of concern and political will in eliminating this menace,” the resolution reads. 

Lawmakers Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, House Minority Leader Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr., and Senate labor committee chair Joel Villanueva also vocally opposed POGOs’ resumption of operations.  

The national government, however, allowed their partial operations or only 30% of manpower on May 1 or Labor Day 

PAGCOR Chief Andrea Domingo requested for its reopening it last April. 

The Department of Finance and Rep. Eric Yap of ACT-CIS Partylist also previously agreed on the idea of reopening POGO companies again