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Ban POGOs to protect nat’l security — senator

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PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO/ SENATE PRIB/JOSEPH VIDAL

A SENATOR urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and his security advisers on Wednesday to ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), which she said could compromise national security due to links to international crime syndicates and spies.

“We hope that the National Security Council (NSC) as a body of the government with the highest mandate on national security to bring it (banning POGOs) to the President about POGOs being a national security threat,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, speaking in Filipino, told a media forum.

Earlier in the day, the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality held an executive session with government agencies, including the NSC on POGOs being linked to surveillance incidents and other crimes.

“The executive can take action on POGOs if the President himself calls for the ban,” the senator said.

She added that the Senate committee will continue working with the Anti-Money Laundering Council to discuss illegal revenue flows from POGOs.

In another development, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) claimed that joint law enforcement agencies had raided the largest POGO company in Porac, Pampanga.

A total of 157 foreign nationals were rounded up, among them 126 Chinese, 23 Vietnamese, and four Malaysians, from the Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Incorporated.

“Lucky South 99 is by far the biggest facility in Pampanga with a reported total number of 46 buildings including villas and other structures, as well as a golf course,” PAOCC Spokesperson Winston John R. Casio said.

Twenty-nine Filipinos were also nabbed in the raid, along with a Burmese and a Korean.

The raid was prompted by information that a female foreign national was being sexually trafficked in the area and male foreign nationals were allegedly being tortured.

Judge Maria Belinda C. Rama of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 issued the warrant for the raid last June 3 for violations of the Anti-Trafficking Act (RA 9208). 

The company was closed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) last September 2022 for illegal operations.

Around 40 workers were rescued then.

The Ombudsman on Monday ordered a six-month preventive suspension against Bamban Mayor Alice L. Guo, for failing to shutter POGOs in Tarlac, with her involvement in the operations also being in question.

Ms. Guo, through her lawyers, denied involvement in the gambling outfits’ crimes.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian earlier filed a resolution seeking to permanently ban POGOs in the country, saying many of these companies are still licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) despite their links to crime. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Chloe Mari A. Hufana

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