[OPINION | Newspoint] POGOs, a social virus

Vergel O. Santos
[OPINION | Newspoint] POGOs, a social virus
'As everything Chinese, POGOs, along with their breeder, should have been held off at the first instance — held off, pandemic or no pandemic, at a social distance of no less than the entire breadth of the West Philippine Sea'

By all indications, POGOs will be allowed to resume operating, and that’s not before the pandemic could even begin to subside, and notwithstanding every evidence that POGOs do not do the nation any good, that they do not help the economy in any way that justifies our paying any of their social costs.

POGOs are Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, gambling licensees, but not just any other gambling licensees. They are singularly favored, they are Chinese, and they are big. They are the king of the franchise territory in which they have chosen to do their sordid business, just as China is king of the West Philippine Sea, the territorial waters it has taken from us.

That’s why all the trouble is taken to dress up POGOs in false virtue. And when the trick has failed — after all, anything that quacks can’t be anything other than a duck — we Filipinos are made to believe that we are immune to whatever unhealthful effects they have, anyway; the impression is given that POGOs, being all-Chinese enterprises, are fail-safely quarantined, if you will. That is, of course, untrue, and not only in relation to the pandemic.

POGOs are big tax evaders. A mere tenth of the taxes due on them is actually paid, thus inflicting a national loss equal to the unpaid balance. Also, precisely because POGOs are owned, managed, staffed, and patronized only by Chinese — and not just any Chinese but Chinese migrants and visitors from the mainland — they have robbed our own workers and capitalists of gainful opportunities. (READ: Justice Leonen: Laws ban poor man’s gambling, but POGOs allowed?)

The social price is incalculable. POGOs have been found to double as fronts for prostitution and loan-sharking – syndicated crimes that inevitably involve violence, murder not excluded. No wonder the Chinese hordes who have come to populate the POGO community leave much to be desired for character, or even simple civilities.

What would be laughable if it were not tragic is that we are taking what China itself won’t have any of; we’re taking what, in fact, China has outlawed. But trust China to export its discards and objectionables, like POGOs, along with their seedy characters, and trust in turn the Duterte regime, which grovels to China as would a vassal to a feudal lord, to be only too willing to take them. (READ: Industry speaks up: POGOs are not BPOs)

If any profits are made off the deal at our end, these are personal and illegal. Philippine immigration agents have been caught taking bribe money for relaxing, if not altogether suspending, visa rules for those Chinese. One can only imagine where the bigger money is made. When presidential spokesman Harry Roque said POGOs were a sort of cash cow for his boss, it came across as a Freudian slip, one that, for all his obviously strained effort at walking back, spinning, and somersaulting, he has been unable to live down. (READ: ‘No favoritism’ in allowing POGOs amid lockdown – Roque)

With POGOs back in business in the time of coronavirus, yet another problem arises: freed from lockdown, their employees are back in the streets and in their crowded workplaces, and, from all that dangerous exposure, they will return to their adoptive communities potentially infected. The puerile precaution is suggested that they be tested coming and going: what clean bill of health issued them can be believed when everything about POGOs is enveloped in secrecy and lies and attended by corruption?

Andrea Domingo, chief of the national gaming corporation, PAGCOR, the POGO licenser itself, makes the patronizing promise that Filipino workers who remain out of work and without income due to the pandemic will be paid out of the taxes and other fees of POGOs — dues the Bureau of Internal Revenue, she says, intends to collect dutifully, seriously, finally — now. She estimates the subsidy to benefit 32,000 furloughed Filipinos, which comes to an invisible 0.07% of the labor force. (READ: Drilon to Pagcor: ‘Stupid mindset’ to allow POGOs for money)

Thus, POGOs are raised to the stature of savior, an act of official indecency comparable to the hero’s burial given the dictator Ferdinand Marcos by this very same regime.

POGOs are themselves a virus, a social virus only made deadlier in the pathogenic sense by the coronavirus. Both viruses have been bred in China. As everything Chinese, POGOs, along with their breeder, should have been held off at the first instance — held off, pandemic or no pandemic, at a social distance of no less than the entire breadth of the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com

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