Gatchalian says smear job targeting anti-POGO senators
MANILA, Philippines — Senators who have been vocal against the continued presence of Philippine online gaming operators, or POGOs, in the country are now contending with a well-financed demolition job being waged against them on the mainstream and social media, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Saturday.
Gatchalian, however, expressed confidence that Malacañang would heed the call of a number of senators for the phaseout of POGOs once it appreciates the findings of the Senate investigation about the “social costs” of hosting such companies.
“What we’re seeing is the huge amount of lobby money involved, how they are trying to wage a demolition job on social media or through news items. It’s worse on social media because anyone can just come up with intrigues, fabricate stories that are not true but are only meant to destroy our credibility,” the lawmaker said in an online interview.
Gatchalian on Wednesday delivered a report as chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, which weighed the disadvantages of having POGOs against their reported benefits to the economy in terms of additional revenues for the government.
The senator said he remained unfazed by the smear campaign and would continue to gather signatures for the committee report by explaining the findings to his peers.
When he spoke about the report last week, he said seven senators had already signed it. He declined to disclose on Saturday whether the number had since changed, only saying: “We have colleagues who have expressed their intention to sign, while others have already signed the report. There were those who were trying to gather additional information.”
With the report yet to be formally elevated to the Senate plenary for adoption, Gatchalian said he would focus for now on raising public awareness about the committee’s findings.
“The conclusion, not only of our committee but also of the Department of Finance and the Neda (National Economic and Development Authority), is that the social costs of our country hosting Pogos are not worth it,” he stressed in an interview over radio program “Usapang Senado” over dwIZ.
The continued presence of POGOs, Gatchalian said, will cause more crimes that will drive away investors and tourists and eventually cause more harm to the economy.
“What we found out is that POGOs have been reporting conflicting figures to the Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) and the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), based on the data we have gathered,” he said.
“It appears that POGOs owe the BIR some P2 billion in taxes, and the BIR itself admitted that based on its own investigation POGOs are committing tax evasion,” Gatchalian said.