Blue Ribbon to join Pogo Senate probe
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon is eyeing a broader and deeper Senate investigation into crimes and alleged corruption linked to Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), saying that the “pastillas” immigration scheme was just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier exposed the alleged multi-billion peso racket within the Bureau of Immigration (BI) wherein immigration personnel purportedly receive pay-offs from Chinese nationals, mostly employed in Pogos, who are promised seamless entry into the country for a “service fee” of P10,000.
Gordon, chair of the powerful Senate blue ribbon (Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations) committee, said he talked to Hontiveros about the possibility of his panel coming in to investigate on the matter.
As chair of the Senate Committee Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, Hontiveros opened a probe into crimes linked to Pogos, including prostitution and trafficking in January this year.
“I can always come in (to investigate), with all due respect to my fellow senators, kaya powerful yung blue ribbon… I can motu proprio say ‘I’ve had enough, may nakikita akong malfeasance dito sa BI, sa Internal Revenue (BIR), sa Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation),’” Gordon said in an interview with dzMM.
(That’s why the Blue Ribbon committee is powerful, it can investigate on its own initiative if i see there’s malfeasance in the BI, BIR or Pagcor.)
“Nagusap na kami ni Risa, sabi ko ‘When you’re ready, papasok ang blue ribbon with your permission.’ Dahil, siyempre, siya ang nagiimbistiga niya. Siya ang nag-expose,” he added.
(Risa and I talked, I said ‘When you’re ready, the blue ribbon will come in with your permission.’ Because, of course, she’s the one investigating this. She’s the one who exposed this).
Shrouded in mystery
Gordon also said the alleged bribery scheme within the BI was “shrouded in mystery,” with the influx of the Chinese nationals seemingly becoming harder to track.
“Uncontrolled ‘yan e, parang gripong pumapasok, hindi mo na mapatay (ang gripo) dahil di mo na ma-distinguish. Hindi mo alam kung visa on arrival yon o tourist at hindi natin ma-track down. Hindi mo na alam kung nakakuha ng special working permit, hindi na yan nagbabayad na rin nung income tax nila,” he said.
(It’s uncontrolled like an open faucet, you can’t turn it off because you can no longer distinguish where they’re coming from. You don’t know if they entered through visa on arrival or as a tourist and we can’t track them down. We don’t even know if they’ve already secured a special working permit, some don’t pay their income tax.)
“Papasok tayo, ayaw ko lang sasabihin ng tao ‘Ito na naman magiimbestiga.’ Lahat naman ng imbestigasyon natin may nangyayari,” the senator added.
(My committee will come in, I just don’t want people to say ‘Here we go again, they will investigate again.’ All our investigation led to something.)
Gordon said his committee is already conducting research on issues linked with Pogos, pointing out the damaging effects to the country of the continuing operations of Pogos.
“Ang damage sa ating lipunan niyan, napakalaki, hindi lang yung kulang yung binabayad niyan. Nadi-distort yung values natin at you suddenly have, ang dami-daming mga Chinese na pumasok dito sabi tourists ngayon maraming Pogo,” he said.
(The massive damage this does to our society is not only the unpaid taxes. Our values become distorted and suddenly you have so many Chinese people here who came in as tourists, but then a lot turns out to be Pogo workers.)
Edited by EDV
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