President Duterte Threatens to ‘Shoot’ and ‘Punch’ Tax-Evading POGOs

The Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, has threatened to shoot and punch POGOs that failed to comply with tax regulation and pay up.

President Duterte Threatens to Punch and Shoot POGOs

The Philippines will crack down on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has warned. Speaking for the media, Panelo explained that any POGOs that hadn’t paid tax would be suspended.

Outlining the course of action against non-compliant POGOs, Panelo mentioned both jail time as well as sentences and the deportation of illegal foreign workers. President Rodrigo Duterte joined the public rhetoric against the POGOs, urging operators to comply by issuing threats to wrongdoers.

Pay or be shot and punched, the President said, and specifically:

“If not, you Pogos, I will shoot you with air guns. Because from where I come from, pugo is a small bird that does not fly and only runs about.”

Duterte added Filipinos were no fools and they expected POGOs to comply with all and honor tax payments. Failing to turn up tax penny, Duterte explained, would result in him summoning POGO bosses and punching them in public, as the President has “punched many people here,“ adding “maybe you want to be next.”

POGOs Chinese Employees

POGOs are one of the most lucrative gaming industries in the world. The estimated amount of unpaid tax by merely three POGOs stand at around $25 million, according to data published by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and collaborated by financial minister Carlos Dominguez.

BIR has also focused on another thorny issue, the hire of foreign nationals, and particularly Chinese. Across the sector’s 218 POGOs, there are estimated 108,914 foreign workers, which has prompted China to intervene and ask the Philippines to stop hiring nationals in the gambling sector.

There have been rumors that the actual number of employees is much higher. Some politicians have claimed numbers as big as 400,000 and 800,000, but this seems to be a populist rhetoric similar to that of President Duterte.

Another concern has been POGOs intentionally targeting mainland residents with betting and gambling offers, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons have complained. President Duterte and his Chinese homologue, Xi Jinping, met earlier this year, but little progress was made on this specific issue.

China didn’t remain quiet on the issue talking about the demographic as well as financial side of the problem:

“A huge amount of Chinese funds [has] illegally flown out of China and into the Philippines, involving crimes such as cross-border money laundering through underground banking, which undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security.”

China has been worried about whether nationals have been paid according to their services or were exploited as cheap employees.

Lawmaker Reports Rampant Tax Evasion

POGOs are an important financial generator for the Philippines with the country collecting $140 million in licensing fees by November 2019. However, out of 60 authorized POGOs, only 10 have been paying taxes, estimates Congressman Joey Salcedo.

The government has also agreed on a tax hike to the tune of 5% on operators and 15% income tax on all employees.

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