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Anti-crime body says POGO raid leaked

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THE PRESIDENTIAL Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said on Sunday it was convinced that its raid of the biggest Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) compound in Porac, Pampanga last week had been leaked out prior to the operation.

“We were going to rescue over a thousand foreign nationals,” PAOCC Spokesperson Winston John R. Casio told a news briefing, noting that only 160 were rescued from the 10-hectare compound where 46 buildings were located.

Mr. Casio said an investigation is ongoing to identify who among their ranks could have sounded the alarm that the POGO hub was going to be raided on June 5, three days after Judge Maria Belinda C. Rama of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 issued the search warrant.

“It’s impossible no one had leaked it (the raid),” said Mr. Casio, speaking partly in Filipino. “We’re investigating and once we find out (who it was), the government will not be forgiving.”

He also said that four of those they rescued sustained severe injuries with one of them suffering from bruises and chain-whipping marks, while another claimed to have been starved for 10 days.

At least two of those rescued in the compound said they were kidnapped, added Mr. Casio.

One of them, a Chinese national, claimed being kidnapped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1, while the second, also a Chinese, was abducted in Pasay City.

The Porac POGO compound, operated by Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Incorporated, is bigger than the Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated in Bamban, Tarlac, which was raided last March 13.

So far, authorities have only investigated four to five buildings out of 46 buildings in the Porac POGO compound.

From January to November 2023, authorities found 66 bodies in POGO compounds in Central Luzon.

Mr. Casio said that in the past year, the PAOCC has identified 402 unlicensed POGOs and that based on their monitoring, 100 of these are still operating.

He admitted it would take years before all illegal POGOs could be closed down.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin C. Remulla affirmed the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) hard stance against illegal POGO operations in the country.

“Foreigners are welcome to stay here in our country and may treat it as their own home as long as they whole-heartedly follow our laws accordingly and unconditionally. This is the only and last warning to every alien staying in the Philippines, lest they face severe legal consequences,” he said in a statement. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana

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