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Government can’t track source of P6.1 billion for Bamban POGO

MANILA, Philippines — Government agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) were unable to trace the source of the estimated P6.1 billion spent for the construction of the expansive Philippine offshore gaming operation (POGO) hub in Bamban, Tarlac, according to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

“The POGO hub in Bamban is no small development. That’s a 10-hectare property, there’s a shopping mall, there’s condominiums and there are 37 buildings in that POGO hub… P6.1 billion was ploughed in. The concerning part is, government did not detect anything in terms of money flows,” Gatchalian said in an interview on “Storycon” over One News yesterday.

He said senators asked representatives from the AMLC on the matter during an executive session held on Wednesday.

Bamban Mayor Alice Guo, business permit and licensing officer Edwin Ocampo and municipal legal officer Adenn Sigua have been placed under preventive suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman based on the results of an investigation by the Department of the Interior and Local Government linking the POGO hub to illegal activities.

“When we were doing our own investigation, we couldn’t find any trace on how the P6.1 billion landed on our shores. We couldn’t find any trace on who built the facilities,” said Gatchalian.

“We were very disappointed with the answers of the Anti-Money Laundering Council because they couldn’t trace how the money came in and they couldn’t trace who received the money and dispensed the money during the construction stage,” he said.

“It’s quite disappointing because the job of the Anti-Money Laundering Council is to detect all of these things,” he added.

Gatchalian has urged President Marcos, as chair of the National Security Council (NSC), to declare POGOs as a national security threat.

He cited information from security and intelligence agencies, which reported the extent of influence of POGOs in the country.

He noted that those behind the operations “managed to increase their influence to different personalities and groups, particularly political personalities, enforcement groups and enforcement agencies, as well as local criminal syndicates.”

“POGOs are run by foreign criminal