MANILA — Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva has introduced a bill to ban all forms of online gambling in the country as the issue of Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGO) has sparked renewed controversy. interest following a series of alleged kidnappings and murders.
Villanueva’s Senate Bill 1281 or “Anti-Online Gambling Law” proposal sought to penalize those engaging in online gambling with a prison term of up to 6 months and a fine of up to at 500,000 pesos.
“This bill seeks to prohibit online gambling and the placing of wagers or wagers via the internet or any form of online gambling activity to prevent further deterioration of morals and values, encourage people to work instead of relying on a game of chance, stop addiction and save lives,” Villanueva said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III voiced support for a ban on POGO operations in the country, as he challenged the Senate and House majority blocs to unite and give priority to the approval of the measure.
“Given what we now see as many adverse effects of POGOs, Congress has a moral duty to ban POGOs. We must act now,” Pimentel said in a statement.
“This will be a bipartisan measure. We cannot afford to waver on banning POGOs while moral fiber and the peace and order of the nation are at stake. You are the majority. Come together. If you say ‘stop POGO’, we’ll support you,” he continued.
He said Malacañang should also heed the call to ban POGO in the Philippines.
“The continued operation of POGOs in the country is dangerous. It is tantamount to harboring potential criminals and gangsters who can eventually cause massive disruption of peace and order in the country, as we are beginning to see now with the wave of kidnappings and other violent activities related to POGO,” Pimentel said.
“Kung sa China, where are most of these people from, bawal ang POGOs, why did we open our doors to POGOs?” he added.
Authorities recently rescued 70 foreigners who were allegedly detained at a POGO site in Rizal.
About 40 other POGO workers who may have been victims of human trafficking were also rescued in Angeles City, Pampanga, police said.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe has called for a “thorough investigation into the social costs of POGOs” in the country.
“We should launch a thorough investigation into the social costs of POGOs and assess whether the country can still accommodate its operations and, if so, at what cost. I will immediately table a resolution on this so that the chamber and the public can together explore its position on POGOs once and for all,” Poe said.
“It’s like POGO as a vice-mother spawns a whole host of other vices and crimes,” she added.
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is expected to submit a report to the plenary regarding the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee’s investigation into POGO’s operations.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he would wait for Dela Rosa’s report first before making a final decision.