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Romero: Agencies must put up online info to prevent repeat of POGO fiasco

Businessman Rene Romero urges government agencies to get their acts together to curb criminality through automated and online information sharing.

With apparent conflict in policies, varying records and data in the Porac mega POGO hub brouhaha, businessmen are calling for government agencies to get their acts together to curb criminality that arises in the multibillion peso industry.

Rene Romero, co-founder of Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that online information sharing among agencies could have prevented the illegal activities in POGO operations.

“It is so disappointing to see how agencies appear to have inconsistent and varying records such as those in number of workers at the Porac POGO,” Romero said in an interview.

He noted in particular the varying figures presented in the second hearing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Lucky South that was recently raided by PAOCC in Porac town.

In the meeting, a representative of the Bureau of Immigration said the agency has in its record more than 800 visas issued to foreign nationals who were purportedly to be employed in Porac. The DOLE, on the one hand, has only 149 who were believed to have been issued with Alien Employment Permits. Most of these were Chinese and have links to Lucky South.

Representatives of other agencies like SSS, Philhealth and PagIBIG Fund said that Lucky South is not registered in their firms.

“Tulungan nyo kami”, a visibly irked Pampanga VG and BM Ananias Canlas Jr state as they appeal to agencies like Pagcor to provide them with more information.

Present in the past two hearings called by the Presiding Officer and Vice Governor Lilia Pineda, Romero said that the Lucky South raid revealed how criminal elements can take advantage of lack of proper records and coordination among concerned agencies.

“This can be avoided by having a central, computerized and automated systems that could track not just employment but also other vital information that is supposedly shared. We in business sector are advocating for that,” Romero said.

He clarified that this move is not only aimed at POGO operations.

“This is not just for POGO but in many huge businesses and industries where government must always have the upperhand to ensure revenues, law enforcement, and services,” Romero said.

He also noted the lack of information by Pagcor and other agencies on internet provider of Lucky South on question raised by Pineda. In the hearing, Romero volunteered the information that there now exists a satellite-based internet that any entity like POGO operators can avail of instead of local internet providers.

For his part, Board Member Jun Canlas who co-presided the meeting assailed the lack of info on internet provider, questioning the accreditation process of Pagcor which issues POGO licenses.

“This (internet) is an indispensable service for a POGO to operate. This is why it is called internet gaming. Without internet there is no offshore gaming to speak of. The need to know is very crucial,” Canlas said.

Both Pineda and Canlas urged Pagcor to provide them with more information on POGOs operating in the province. In particular, they requested a list of active and cancelled licenses it has issued.

Romero shared the same view as he also appealed for a shared responsibility in monitoring, particularly those whose licenses have already been cancelled.

Atty. Jessa Mariz Fernandez, Pagcor AVP for offshore gaming licenses, assured the provincial government of its support by way of implementing stricter rules on POGO operations.

Fernandez said the agency has only issued a license for the operation of Lucky South in one building only during its application for license.

The PAOCC in its raid on June 4 has dicovered 46 total buildings in the Porac Pogo operations.