Malacañang: Duterte won’t rush decision on calls for POGO suspension

Sofia Tomacruz
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also says the President's decision to suspend lotto operations in 2019 – widely criticized as done in haste – should not be compared to his perceived slow action on calls to suspend POGO operations

PHILIPPINE CHIEF. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech before newly appointed government officials in Malacañang on March 3, 2020. Malacañang photo

 

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Thursday, March 5, that President Rodrigo Duterte “cannot be rushed” into deciding on calls to suspend Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) over supposed crime links.

“When the President decides on something, he has the goods to back his decision. If he has not received a comprehensive report on these illegal practices then you cannot hurry him up,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Reporters pointed out a seeming double standard in Duterte’s response to POGOs and his earlier decision to suspend the operation of lotto outlets nationwide due to aleged “massive corruption.”

Panelo denied this and claimed Duterte was still waiting for a “comprehensive report” on supposed crimes linked to POGO operations.

In the same vein, Panelo said Duterte’s decision to suspend lotto operations “cannot even (be) compared” to the POGO question since the President’s decision to suspend  lotto was based on reports of corruption in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

“He had basis for lotto suspension. Here (POGOs), (there is) no comprehensive report yet,” Panelo said.

On July 26, 2019, Duterte ordered the closure of all gaming schemes operated, licensed, and franchised by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) due to “massive corruption,” but restored lotto operations 4 days later amid widespread criticism over the inclusion of the state-sanctioned numbers game.

Asked if Duterte would opt for a preventive suspension of POGOs pending an investigation into its operations, Panelo simply reiterated, “Let’s not hurry up this President.”

What’s going on with POGOs? Back-to-back Senate hearings have uncovered POGO’s alleged links to a wide range of crimes ranging from sex trafficking and corruption to money laundering and the forgery.

Senators have called for a ban on POGOs, saying their negative effects outweigh the industry’s supposed economic benefits. (READ: Drilon to Pagcor: ‘Stupid mindset’ to allow POGOs for money)

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, had also criticized the Duterte administration’s “soft stance” towards China, listing it as among the reasons behind the rise in crimes linked to the industry.

Panelo hit back at Gordon’s accusation, saying he could not “understand” the reason behind the Senator’s claim.

“I disagree,” Panelo said, adding that if Gordon claimed this, “then he does not know this President.”

“The President is never soft on anything that relates to the national interest,” he said.

Duterte earlier said he was not inclined to ban POGOs. For him, the Philippines “needs” the industry because of the jobs the industry provides. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.