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Declare POGOs nat’l security threat

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NSC asked to endorse call to PBBM

The National Security Council was urged to recommend to the President the declaration of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as a national security threat.

Senator Risa Hontiveros made the call on Wednesday after an executive session with various government agencies.

The Senate session came a day after authorities raided a POGO hub in Pampanga and arrested 158 foreigners and 29 Filipinos on Tuesday.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission said of the foreigners arrested inside the Pogo complex along Friendship Highway in Angeles City, 126 were Chinese and 23 were Vietnamese.

“There was a call to the National Security Council to raise the matter of POGO as a national security threat to the President as the executive session was winding down,” Hontiveros said during the Kapihan sa Senado forum yesterday.

“Hopefully the NSC will listen to our call and the President will look into it and see if POGO is indeed a national security threat. We hope he can act on it,” she added.

She cited the numerous human trafficking cases linked to POGO operations as she pressed for a total ban of the industry anew.

Last month, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian filed a bill to ban POGOs, noting the surge in crimes related to the industry.

“The main goal is ultimately to outlaw and prohibit offshore gaming operations in the country. While the POGO industry has brought in revenue and jobs, the country has grappled with a surge in POGO-related crimes, raising concerns about the overall impact on the industry,” Gatchalian said.

A recent raid in a POGO hub in Bamban, Tarlac was prompted by complaints of human trafficking and illegal detention from a Vietnamese national.

In October, police raided a POGO hub in Pasay City which led to the discovery of a torture chamber, an aquarium-style viewing room, and massage parlors allegedly used for prostitution.

Hontiveros said it is high time for NSC to give its position on POGOs to the President.

Aside from the NSC, other government agencies represented during the executive session were PAOCC, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality headed by Hontiveros began the series of inquiries in response to resolutions filed by senators on the reported human trafficking, cyberfraud, serious illegal detention, physical abuse, and torture happening in POGO hubs.

PAOCC, for its part, said the Pampanga operation stemmed from a warrant issued by Judge Maria Belinda Rama of the Malolos Regional Trial Court against officers and employees of Lucky South 99.

The commission said Lucky South 99 is “the biggest facility in Pampanga with a reported total number of 46 buildings including villas and other structures, as well as a golf course.”


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