Philippines Top News: China POGO Resumes; Filipino Company w/ Thousands Filipino Employees Shutsdown


*Gambling-dependent Philippines allows POGOs to resume operations -

*ABS-CBN shutdown will worsen state of unemployment -

*ABS-CBN clarifies they have ‘no unpaid taxes’ amid fight to renew franchise -

*ABS-CBN did not violate the law' -

*ABS-CBN settles tax case with BIR, pays ₱152 million -

*Gambling-dependent Philippines allows POGOs to resume operations -

*Online Gambling in China is Illegal-

*China wants Philippines to Ban online gambling-

*Cambodia formally closes door on online gaming -

*PNP to step up drive vs POGO-related crimes in the Philippines -

*Philippine government loses P51B to POGO 'tax evasion' -

*8 of 11 licensed POGOs refuse to pay licensing fees: BIR -

Gambling-dependent Philippines allows POGOs to resume operations

The Philippine government has allowed Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) to reopen, despite most of non-essential industries closing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the government struggles to provide relief to the poor, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chief executive officer Andrea Domingo confirmed in several radio interviews that POGOs, run mostly by Chinese businessmen, will give the much needed cash.

'Yan (POGOs) ay kikita ng significant revenues nang wala namang risk na kakalat ang COVID-19 (POGOs will earn significant revenues without the risk of spreading COVID-19),” Domingo said in an interview with DZMM. (READ: Online gambling: Good for whose business?)

There are around 60 POGOs, most of which are expected to resume operations as early as next Monday, should they comply with all requirements.

Domingo said 30% of the total workforce of POGOs will be allowed to report for work, provided concerned companies settle unpaid taxes and workers are guaranteed to be healthy.

POGOs also need to provide shuttle services for employees, conduct temperature checks, ensure physical distancing is observed, and provide masks.


ABS-CBN shutdown will worsen state of unemployment — labor group

An outright shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN would ultimately worsen the state of unemployment in both the city and the country, a labor representative of the Quezon City Development Council said Tuesday.

This comes as the latest callout in an ongoing row against the broadcast giant after government lawyers filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN Corporation looking to revoke its legislative franchise.

According to Benjamin Cordero, labor representative of the Quezon City Development Council, the move shouldresult injob security and regularization of the media network's thousands of workers. 

"Shutting down the network will merely worsen the current aggravating state of unemployment and under employment situation of the city and the country as a whole," said Cordero said in a statement. 

The group urged Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, whom they called "Duterte’s alter ego in the Senate," to "man up" and prioritize measures for the franchise.

At Monday's hearing, it was Go who bared that the president was hurt by the actions of the media network, despite Palace assertion that the petition was not linked to any personal vendetta. 

"If the president isn’t really vindictive over his unaired ad during the 2016 election, as the senator is saying, we are one with the senator’s call to grant the franchise instead that will benefit the workers and alleviate the lives of the many," Cordero said. 

"The labor sector also believes that this move should result not just jobs for its thousands of workers but should also result for regularization, enough benefits for its workers and respect for union and collective bargaining agreement."


ABS-CBN clarifies they have ‘no unpaid taxes’ amid fight to renew franchise

ABS-CBN clarifies they have ‘no unpaid taxes’ amid fight to renew franchise

Media giant ABS-CBN maintained Tuesday it "did not violate the law" and has no outstanding tax liability as it faces a petition before the Supreme Court to nullify its legislative franchise.

ABS-CBN has no tax liability with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). In fact, the BIR issued a Tax Clearance Certificate to ABS-CBN in 2019,” the statement read.

In 2019, the Court of Tax Appeals approved a settlement deal between ABS-CBN and BIR, which saw the broadcasting network shelling out ₱152.44 million, which is equivalent to 40 percent of its assessed deficiency in income tax, value-added tax, and documentary stamp tax payments. The CTA second division approved the compromise agreement to settle the media company’s tax case. The statement also cited that ABS-CBN has paid a total of ₱70.5 billion in taxes to the government in a span of 17 years. “We remain grateful to for the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the nation, whether through the services we offer to the people or by paying our taxes to the government,” said the statement.

ABS-CBN: 'We did not violate the law'

ABS-CBN denounced the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida to cancel the network's franchise, which it said is part of a concerted effort to shut the network down.

The Lopez-owned network said Calida's plea to revoke its existing franchise is "without merit," with the public TV channel insisting that all its business strategies are above board.

"The Office of the Solicitor General’s filing of a quo warranto case against ABS-CBN on alleged violations of its franchise appears to be an effort to shut down ABS-CBN to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos who rely on the network for news, entertainment and public service," the channel said in a statement.

"ABS-CBN complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations," it added.

Calida, government's top lawyer, ran to the high court with a "very urgent" motion on Monday requesting to cancel ABS-CBN's legislative franchise weeks before it lapses. Calida claimed that the network committed violations in the terms set by Congress when it approved ABS-CBN's franchise in 1995.

Charged are ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. for "highly abusive practices" that went unnoticed for years. For one, Calida said the network allowed foreign investors through Philippine Deposit Receipts or PDRs, which meant giving control and voting rights to them even if the Constitution prohibits this.

PDRS are financial instruments that foreign entities can buy for financial returns in a local company. It is different from shares of stock, as these do not entitle its holder to ownership and voting rights.

Calida added that the network launched its TV Plus subscription service and the KBO Channel without approval from the National Telecommunications Commission.

According to the petition, among the problematic shows aired without permit were pay-per-view boxing matches, a Holy Week special, and concerts.

"As of February 2019, despite the absence of any permit from NTC and guidelines on conditional access, the KBO Channel inveigled 1.2 million unique TV plus consumers to register in the service," the petition alleged.

The petition went on to say a quo warranto was "specifically available as a remedy if it is thought that a corporation has offended against its corporate charter or misused its franchise."

The petition cites there has been no previous cases of the revocation of a franchise of a television or radio company.

"This case presents issues that the court can resolve to serve as precedent. it is an opportunity that the court must seize to draw the line in future cases," it said.

In its response, the network said all its broadcast offerings went through the necessary government regulatory approvals before going on air. The PDRs in question were also approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Stock Exchange before it was offered to the public and used to raise additional funding for the company.

It added that the petition was "ill-timed," as Congress is about to start discussing bills that will renew the media firm's authority to remain in broadcast.

ABS-CBN produces news, public affairs, and entertainment shows on a daily basis.

President Rodrigo Duterte has personally vowed to put the channel and its subsidiaries out of business, even telling its executives to just sell the company. He earlier also publicly spoke about his ire against ABS-CBN for not airing his political ads during the May 2016 elections, where he eventually won. However, Calida insisted that the case is not motivated by politics.

Duterte to ABS-CBN: Next year, you're out

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also denied that the quo warranto case was meant to clamp down on Duterte's critics, as well as on freedom of the press. "The Solicitor General is constitutionally bound to institute any action against any transgressors of law. If a franchise holder is violating its franchise, then it is his duty to file a quo warranto," he said in a press briefing.

Panelo also denied that Duterte's gripe versus the network had anything to do with the case. Media groups have taken the case as a sign of the government's "desperation" to muzzle media outlets critical of the administration, to the detriment of about 11,000 talents and employees of the TV giant.

"This proves without a doubt that this government is hellbent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcast network whose franchise renewal, now pending in Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte has personally vowed to block. So much so that it would risk trampling on Congress' authority to legislate franchises," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.

"We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people's right to know," it added.

Human Rights Watch Philippines also condemned the legal maneuver, saying it had "all the indications of political harassment." "This is clearly an attempt by the Duterte government to intimidate or control ABS-CBN, which has aired and published critical reporting on the government, including its deadly 'war on drugs,'" said Carlos Conde, researcher for the group's Asia Division.

Shares at ABS-CBN Corporation slipped 1.76 percent by market close on Monday. ABS-CBN Holdings Corporation, which issued the PDRs in question, saw its stock price fall 3.75 percent.


ABS-CBN settles tax case with BIR, pays ₱152 million

The tax court approved a settlement deal between broadcast network ABS-CBN and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) second division, on February 27, approved the compromise agreement between ABS-CBN and the BIR to settle the broadcast network's tax case.

The BIR accepted ₱152.44 million from ABS-CBN, which is the equivalent of 40 percent of its assessed deficiency in income tax, value-added tax, and documentary stamp tax payments.

ABS-CBN Chief Financial Officer Aldrin Cerrado was authorized to enter into the compromise agreement with the BIR.

Only after the approval of the CTA did the agreement become binding on both parties.

The compromise agreement also counts as a judgment on the case.

"Once a compromise agreement is given judicial approval, hoever, it becomes more than a contract binding upon the parties. Having been sanctioned by the court, it is entered as a determination of a controversy and has the force and effect of a judgment," the CTA ruling read.

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Juanito Castañeda, Jr.


Online Gambling in China is Illegal

Mainland China is strictly anti-gambling. Both online and offline wagering are illegal with both punishable by fines and imprisonment. This goes for both operators and patrons. The country even attempts to block citizens’ access to online casinos via the Great Firewall of China.


China wants Philippines to ban online gambling

China also wants to 'jointly tackle criminal activities including online gambling and cyber fraud,' saying it would help development relations between Manila and Beijing

China on Wednesday, August 21, asked the Philippines to ban all forms of online gambling as it lauded the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation's (Pagcor) recent move to suspend accepting applications for Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).


Cambodia formally closes door on online gaming

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has officially closed the door on online gambling in a parliamentary hearing on Friday.

The Kingdom won’t issue any further licenses and will not renew existing ones once they expire. In Cambodia, the renewal of gaming licences normally takes place in January, meaning existing online gaming licences will only be valid until the end of the year.

Cambodia’s ban follows Beijing’s decision to crackdown on online gambling targeting its citizens.

The government made three main points in a memorandum announcing the measures.

1) Any form of online gaming, both domestically and internationally would be totally banned.

2) The Ministry of Economics & Finance has been given a directive by Prime Minister Hun Sen not to renew existing online gaming licences and there will be no new issuance of online gaming licences moving forward.

3) The government will continue to crack down on local and online gambling businesses. Some foreign entities have resorted to using online gambling as a front to extort and scam money from innocent victims at home and abroad, resulting in chaos in security, public and social orders, it claims.

In a strongly worded statement in August, China urged international cooperation and warned it would not tolerate Chinese nationals gambling overseas. Cambodia was quick to respond flagging its intention to ban the practice. The Philippines has also put a temporary suspension on the issuance of new licenses. The decision affects many of the land-based licensees in Cambodia, especially in Sihanoukville, where online and proxy betting are the main drivers of revenue. Billions of dollars have flooded into the once sleepy seaside town, fuelling a massive construction boom.

Mainland Chinese are reported to now be leaving the country en masse.


PNP to step up drive vs POGO-related crimes in the Philippines

The Philippine National Police (PNP) vowed yesterday to launch an intensified crackdown on criminal syndicates operating within Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) firms as it announced the rescue of two Chinese nationals just the other day in Pampanga.

Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesman, said the Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have been tasked to curb the rising number of kidnappings and other crimes committed within the POGO industry.

“We will intensify our operations,” Banac said in a phone interview, a day after Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on the PNP, Bureau of Immigration (BI) and National Bureau of Investigation to hunt down criminal syndicates operating in POGO companies.

He said that even before the senator made that appeal, the PNP has been operating against crime syndicates victimizing Chinese workers.

Banac cited how latest operation of the AKG in Clark, Pampanga last Monday resulted in the rescue of two Chinese men from their abductors.


Philippine government loses P51B to POGO 'tax evasion'

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) operators' "skirting" of our tax laws  has cost the government some P51 billion in revenues, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sunday.

Based on his calculations, Gatchalian told Dobol B sa News TV that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has only collected P11 billion from POGOs, when the amount should have been P62 billion.

"Ang nangyayari ay pinapalusutan tayo nitong mga POGO sa ating bansa. Meron silang tinatawag na off-shore companies, so ibig sabihin dito sila nag-ooperate pero hindi sila nagbabayad ng taxes kasi ang kanilang sinasabi ay hindi naman sila Philippine-registered, sila ay off-shore-registered," he said.

"Ito ay consistent doon sa sinabi ng BIR sa hearing na hindi nila mapuwersang kolektahan itong mga off-shore na POGO dahil hindi sila nakarehistro dito," the senator added.

Out of the 60 POGO licenses issued by the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation, only 11 are registered in the Philippines while the rest are foreign-registered, Gatchalian pointed out.


8 of 11 licensed POGOs refuse to pay licensing fees: BIR

Eight of the 11 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) who currently have permits from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) have been refusing to pay licensing fees, a tax official said Thursday, as a Senate panel studied if internet gambling should still be allowed in the country.

Among the 11 current internet gambling licensees, only 3 POGO firms are paying the 5 percent Philippine franchise tax, said Arnel Guballa, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

"Their (POGOs) assertion is that, 'We are offshore, we are outside the Philippine jurisdiction,' but the contention of BIR is, 'Since you registered with PAGCOR, then you are under Philippine law,'" Guballa told senators.

It was the Office of the Solicitor General that said that "foreign-based operators are not liable to 5 percent (franchise tax)," said Dave Fermin Sevilla, who chairs PAGCOR's Anti-Money Laundering Supervision and Enforcement Department.

In 2019, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that POGOs cannot be taxed because offshore operations are considered outside the Philippines. Economic officials had refuted Calida's opinion, saying the Department of Finance has been pushing to tax the Chinese-run sector.


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