The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to cease its operations against Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) following complaints of extortion and other irregularities.
“I told the NBI to stop activities against POGOs,” Remulla said during an event hosted by the Rotary Club of Manila late Thursday.
Remulla said his directive was issued just before he took over the top post at the DOJ on a complaint by a POGO establishment that money was found missing during an NBI operation.
“The NBI was not established to arrest foreigners or businessmen. We had to put a stop to that and right now,” he declared.
Remulla did not say when he arrived at the decision or if he had signed a written directive to the NBI to formalize the order. He just said during his speech that he received a call Thursday morning from a private man of Chinese descent complaining that he had been victimized by “huli-dap.”
“There are a lot of similar incidents happening. Many have reported. So, they requested that POGOs stop their operations. I asked (NBI) OIC Director [Medardo] De Lemos to stop everybody from operating on POGOs because we are getting a very bad operation on the matter,” he said.
The justice chief said it is best for the NBI to stay out of the problems in the POGO industry.
“They kidnap each other. In the end, they will sue each other at the DOJ and in the end, they’ll just settle with each other. So, we are just wasting our time. We were just being dragged into the intramurals so we have to stop it,” he explained. “We will only act if there is really a police matter that is necessary for us to police or for the NBI to work on but in the meantime we will not do it because it may worsen the situation,” he added.
Remulla said he has yet to receive information if there were high-ranking officials involved in the alleged “huli-dap” operations.
“I am not aware of that. I haven’t gotten that far. But what I know is many operate on the POGOs and it’s really alarming, it has to stop,” he said.
Some lawmakers have called for the removal of POGOs in the country amid allegations linking the industry to rising criminality.
POGOs are online gambling companies that operate in the Philippines but serve customers from outside the country. A big majority of POGO workers were Chinese, some of whom were alleged to have entered the country illegally through the controversial “pastillas scam.”
Once a thriving industry in the Philippines, POGO operations took a hit during the pandemic when lockdowns were imposed. But in May 2020, the Philippines agreed to allow POGOs to partially resume operations after classifying them as part of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.
The resumption of POGO operations was met with criticisms, due in part to unpaid taxes, prompting regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to vow to be “very strict” in enforcing conditions for reopening. Malacañang also had to defend the move.