Gordon says Duterte's 'soft' stance on China fuels POGO scandals

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon criticized the "soft stance" of the Duterte administration on China, saying that it is the reason behind the rise in crimes linked to Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).

"This would never happen if the administration were not too soft on China. 'Yun ang isang rason bakit sila nandito. (That's one of the reasons why they are here)," Gordon said.

Asked whether he would recommend the banning of POGOs amid the scandals, Gordon said in a media interview that he "doesn't know yet." (READ: POGOs linked to crimes: Forged PH passports, money-laundering, sex trafficking)

Gordon made the statement as he discussed with the media his privilege speech on the link of money laundering to POGOs, which he delivered on Tuesday, March 3. 

Asked whether POGOs were being condoned, Gordon speculated that government employees were perhaps afraid to earn the presidential ire.

"Hindi naman [kinukunsinti]. That's why there is some tolerance. Takot sila eh. Hindi nila alam. 'May deal ba si boss dito? May deal ba ang Presidente dito?' Pinagbibigyan niya itong mga ito. Nakakatakot 'yan eh," the senator said.

(It's not really condoning. That's why there is some tolerance. They are afraid. They don't know. 'Does our boss have deals with them? Does the President have deals with them? Because he is indulging them.' And that's alarming.)

Citing data from the Bureau of Customs, Gordon said on Tuesday that some $447 million were "suspiciously" brought by 47 individuals into the Philippines. About half of the amount or $210 million (P10.6 billion) was reportedly brought in by Chinese individuals.

Gordon said that Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero had already informed the Department of Finance, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue in September last year, but the agencies have yet to act on it.

He said that the President may have already been tipped off about money laundering as well.  (READ: [ANALYSIS] Duterte and the POGO dilemma

"Imposible naman na hindi 'nya (Duterte) alam 'yan. Tolerance is tolerance… Hindi mo papahuli, eh 'di may tolerance. Nagsumbong na sa'yo ang Customs. Hindi pa gumalaw 'yung [Anti-Money Laundering Council]," Gordon said. 

(It's impossible that he doesn't know about it. Tolerance is tolerance. If you don't arrest them, then there's tolerance. Customs has already reported about it. But the AMLC hasn't acted on it.) 

Gordon is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, March 5, on the link of money laundering to POGOs. 

The BOC on Monday, March 4, said that syndicates were able to bring in P18.7 billion in dirty money to the country with the "help of some police, military, and airport security personnel."

Military spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo on Wednesday denied that soldiers helped the syndicate, but said that it could be "retired servicemen."

President Rodrigo Duterte said in September 2019 that the country supposedly "needs" POGOs. He said that the Philippines benefits from the industry through livelihood and real estate, driving up rental prices to the consternation of Filipinos. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

image