Duterte gives POGOs 3 days to pay taxes

Pia Ranada
Errant POGOs will be shot like 'pugo' or quail, says President Rodrigo Duterte, in his typical threat-making style

OPPORTUNITY. POGOs are seen to provide the Philippine government with billions worth of revenue. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is giving Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) remiss in paying taxes 3 days to settle their obligations with the government.

“I’m giving you at least 3 days,” said Duterte on Friday, November 29, in an interview with CNN Philippines.

It’s not clear if the President meant to say “at most” 3 days.

He ordered them to register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) or else he would order them shot like “pugo” or quail, a play on the term “POGO.”

Itong POGO, letse ka. Hindi lang ito Chinese pero Pilipino. Pilipino, Chinese, you better settle that utang or else gawain ko kayong pugo. Ang pogo sa amin ‘yung maliit na – barilin ko kayo nang de bombo,” said the President.

(These POGOs, you idiots. These are not just Chinese but Filipinos. Filipino, Chinese, you better settle that debt or ellse I’ll turn you into ‘pugo.’ ‘Pugo’ for us are the small – I’ll shoot you.)

Aside from getting shot, POGO executives are apparently also in for a presidential slap.

Huwag ninyo lokohin ang Pilipino kasi ang Pilipino, hindi loko-loko. ‘Pag ginagawa mo akong loko-loko, sapakin kita. I’ll have you called here and sapakin kita,” said Duterte.

(Don’t fool Filipinos because Filipinos are not fools. If you make a fool of me, I’ll slap you. I’ll have you called here and I’ll hit you.)

How much in taxes do POGOs owe? In September, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez ordered the padlocking of POGOs that refuse to pay the tax liabilities of their foreign workers, who are mostly Chinese nationals.

At the time, various firms had tax liabilities amounting to P21.6 billion.

From January to August 2019, the BIR managed to collect P1.4 billion from POGOs, 242% higher than the previous year’s collections.

POGO service providers paid P175 million in withholding taxes in 2017 and P579 million in 2018. 

China has asked the Duterte government to ban POGOs since it allows Chinese citizens to gamble, which is illegal in the mainland. 

But the Philippines insists that online gambling is “perfectly legal” in the country, with Duterte even saying the country “needs it.” (READ: Online gambling: Good for whose business?)

POGOs mean more revenue for the government. The Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation expects the sector to contribute P8 billion in licensing fees and royalties this year. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.