Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon backed the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry on Saturday, describing as an “insult” the Palace position that Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) can be allowed to resume business because they are in the same category as BPOs.

Drilon said POGOs, which cater mainly to Chinese online bettors, are gambling entities and are in fact regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

“Ang sinasabi nila rito ay ang POGO ay parte ng BPO. Nakakainsulto naman po iyan sa nakakaintindi nito. Alam mo naman na matagal ko nang ino-oppose ito.Unang-una, ang PAGCOR ang nagbibigay ng license sa POGO. Ang nagbibigay ng license sa BPO ay PEZA o BOI. Ang PAGCOR, sa batas, ay nagbibigay ng license sa gambling industry, hindi sa BPO,” Drilon told radio station DWIZ.

“Kung ito ay BPO, bakit ang PAGCOR ang nagbibigay ng license? Sila rin ang nagsu-supervise ng POGO. Ano ang ibig sabihin? Talagang gambling ang POGO. Ang sabi nga, if the POGOs look like a duck, swim like a duck, quack like a duck, it must be a duck. Baluktot sa akin iyang ganyang interpretation. Nakakainsulto na sabihin mong BPO industry ang POGO.”

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on Friday the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases had clarified that POGOs are considered BPOs, which are allowed to have limited operations in areas with quarantine measures in place.

Pagcor Chairwoman Andrea Domingo said POGOs may only employ 30 percent of their normal workforce, which must undergo rapid testing before reporting for work.

On Saturday, the information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) sector issued a statement arguing that POGOs could not be in the same category as BPO firms.

“[As] far as the IT-BPM industry is concerned, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs, as they are commonly called, cannot be considered as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO),” the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) said in its statement.

It pointed out that POGOs and BPOs fell under different regulatory bodies.

“BPO companies are registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) or the Board of Investments (BOI), while POGOs are registered with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor),” it said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday filed a resolution urging the prohibition of POGO operations in the country and the use of their P50 billion in unpaid taxes for the government’s response to the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“The government should be thinking of ways of how to get Filipinos back to our livelihood, instead of ways of how best to resume POGO,” Hontiveros said.

“POGO is a non-essential industry. Hindi pwedeng business-as-usual. Unahin nating makabalik sa trabaho ang mga Pilipino, hindi ang POGO,” she added. (