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Senator wary of POGO ‘connections’

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A PHILIPPINE senator has raised concern over the alleged involvement of a controversial former official of the defunct Technology and Resource Center (TRC) in the illegal operation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hubs in Tarlac and Pampanga, which were raided this year.

“It seems that POGOs are deliberately tapping former and present officials they can easily corrupt,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement Monday, citing the POGO’s supposed ties with a convicted former deputy director general of the TRC.

She cited documents that showed the ex-official acting as an “authorized representative” for raided POGO hubs in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga, saying she would invite him to the Senate’s next hearing looking into crimes linked to these outfits.

The former TRC official had been sentenced to a 267-year jail term for his involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, which allowed legislators to fund small-scale projects in their districts that fell outside the national infrastructure program.

The program was voided by the Supreme Court in 2013 for being illegal.

Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. last week said criminal syndicates posing as POGOs, which are mostly Chinese gambling companies that operate online casinos from the Philippines, are national security threats and must be stopped.

“I call on my fellow public servants to join the growing call to ban POGOs now,” Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel said. “We must show these POGOs that the Philippines does not have a price.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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