By Leonel Abasola

Senator Joel Villanueva (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday pushed for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1281, seeking to prohibit Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and all forms of online gambling in the country.

Villanueva made this call amid mounting evidence linking POGOs to various crimes such as torture, kidnapping, murder and human trafficking.

“There should be no debate that the social costs of gambling far outweigh any benefits. We must put an end to this once and for all,” Villanueva said in a statement.

He said Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the country’s gaming regulator, has “unfortunately failed” to ensure the POGOs conduct their business operations aboveboard.

“In fact, the POGOs raided in Bamban, Tarlac, and Porac, Pampanga were both ex-PAGCOR licensees found to be running scam operations,” he said.

He said the various crimes linked to POGOs demand urgent action from PAGCOR.

“This is why we reiterate our call not only to completely ban POGOs but also all forms of online gaming,” he said.

He said PAGCOR should investigate other forms of online gambling that are easily accessible to anyone with a mobile device.

“This should be a concern as their attractive advertisements on various social media platforms can entice anyone to play,” he said.

Under SB 1281, Villanueva proposed that any person involved in online gambling shall be punished by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to PHP500,000.

“The consequences of gambling and online gambling are too severe to be ignored. The cost of gambling is no longer limited to the loss of money, but extends to the loss of values and lives,” Villanueva said in his explanatory note of his bill filed in September 2022. (Leonel Abasola/PNA)