POGO means Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, ironically what is supposed to be “off shore” has caused so many problems “on shore” in the Philippines, leading several members of the Senate and the Executive Department to consider the abolition and banning of POGOs. The question at the moment is who among these anti-POGO proponents are truly and sincerely anti-POGO, and who are appearing or pretending to be anti but in reality are merely positioning themselves so that when the voting happens, lobbyists will make a bee line to their offices to woo, win or buy their support. I refer to no one in particular, but this sort of thing has been known to happen, and after the pretenders sell out, they use the excuse that they settled for a compromise agreement on the floor. So far, about three to five senators are vocal and openly anti-POGO but in a numbers game, those who are quiet can turn the tables on them.A PR practitioner recently asked me if I was anti-gaming and the first paragraph that came out of my mouth was: “I am anti POGO and anti-e-sabong.” As for the rest of the other forms of state-sponsored or sanctioned forms of gambling, my opinion really does not matter since it is the government that has made it legal. If politicians insists that we keep religion inside churches, then it follows that we should only allow gambling inside casinos and cockpits and not everywhere where you have internet connection.Unbeknownst to many Filipinos, there are a lot of public relations firms and lobbyists who have been making the rounds, contacting or engaging reporters, editors and other members of media in order to plead their case in the court of public opinion. There are also individuals holding public office who have tried to argue the benefits of online gaming as well as POGOs because of alleged revenues collected and jobs created. Aside from PRs and politicians, there are people who support POGO for the simple and selfish reason that they own buildings and dormitories where POGO operators conduct business or where “employees” reside.If you have not followed the history and reporting on online gambling you might find their presentations convincing, until you go back and discover all the violations of law, international relations, legal contracts, human rights and corruption that have come in the wake of online gambling, particularly POGOs and e-sabong. Do the research and you will find that so many POGOs failed to pay taxes in the hundreds of millions. So the argument that government earns money is not necessarily so. If it’s accurate that there are 40,000 illegal aliens that now need to be repatriated to China, how did 40,000 tourists become illegal aliens without the Bureau of Immigration knowing or doing something about it?The argument is that the Philippine government simply has to be more efficient and effective in doing its part in managing and controlling POGOs and the collateral effects such as prostitution, human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and murder of foreign nationals, particularly Chinese citizens. The crime-related fall-out from POGOs requires the government to devote its very limited human resources, particularly the PNP and the NBI, just to make sure players and investors behave. So whatever money the government makes is used up while Filipinos find their safety and security compromised because cops are watching and “babysitting” POGOs!From the looks of it, the presence of 40,000 “illegal aliens” or displaced Chinese POGO workers has now become a diplomatic and humanitarian concern requiring a face-to-face consultation between DOJ Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian. I would not blame Ambassador Huang if he issued an “I told you so” statement since the Chinese embassy did issue a very strong statement of concern regarding the Duterte administration’s decision to pursue a pro-POGO state policy.If you recall, China emphasized that the business model of POGO was targeting and corrupting its citizens but the Duterte administration ignored the call of the Chinese government.The Philippine government allowed them to come in legally or illegally and now it is our burden and responsibility to find them, document them, care for them and figure out how to send 40,000 back to mainland China. It’s almost like creating a refugee center and repatriation program by default.Meanwhile, I was recently told that e-sabong operators are all on stand-by waiting for what happens to the POGO issue in Congress, Senate and in Malacañang. Just before all the police stories on POGO-related human trafficking, murder, prostitution spilled out, the operators were apparently confident that POGOs would once again be allowed to thrive in the country and from there, e-sabong operators would then line up in Congress to get “franchises” in order for them to become “untouchable” by Malacañang. This is why we can all expect a lot of lobbying and PR foot work to take place.I told one of the persons doing representations for e-sabong that they faced more than an uphill battle because they made the mistake of displacing millions of workers from various cockpits all over the country for nearly two years. The return of traditional sabong gave these ordinary workers a taste of victory over the big-time operators – they got their livelihood back and I don’t think they will easily give all of that up just by a stroke of the pen of somecongressman or Malacañang official.There also remains the unsolved disappearance of 34 if not more sabungeros and helpers who are now presumed entombed in concrete or have been fed to crocodiles, not to mention the discovery that the government also collects so little from the total revenues of e-sabong.It’s about time that government finds and deals with investors who create real jobs, improve quality of lives and are real partners of governmentand not gamble away people’s lives!