The Department of Justice has ordered the closure of at least 175 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to their alleged involvement in various crimes as government authorities are set to arrest and deport en masse some 3,000 overstaying foreign workers, mostly Chinese nationals, in batches next month.
“Justice Secretary Remulla ordered the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, with the assistance of PAGCOR, to ensure that the offices of these POGOs were shut down,” DOJ spokesman Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said.
“What’s worrying are the videos circulating which show POGOs involved in murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. That’s what’s being reported to the DOJ and that is why the Secretary called a meeting to put a stop to this,” he added.
Clavano said there are at least 281 workers under government custody in Pampanga.
“The direction of Secretary Remulla is to start the arrest of POGO employees within the first week of October and hopefully, by mid-October, we can deport around 2,000 to 3,000,” he added.
Remulla earlier met with the representatives from the Chinese Embassy in Manila to ensure that foreign POGO employees are deported humanely and with proper care.
“We want this done per batch so they will not overstay at establishments, and we make sure that they have adequate food,” Clavano said, adding that the government wants to avoid a “humanitarian crisis” in the mass deportation.
He said the employees will stay at hotels at their own expense.
“If they can no longer pay for their lodging or food, that’s the only time the government will come in and spend for the food and lodging of the Chinese nationals,” the Justice official added.
Clavano said the operation against overstaying POGO workers will continue until December this year in coordination with the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
Clavano said government estimates put the number of overstaying POGO workers in the country at 40,000.
He said law enforcement agencies will also continue their probe of POGO-related crimes, including killings, kidnappings, and prostitution.
Earlier, Remulla said the country should allow legitimate POGOs to continue operating “but we have to put everything in order.”
“We continue with the manageable POGOs,” Remulla said in an interview with CNN Philippines. “If we can, let’s stop it. If not, then let’s organize the system so it won’t bother our citizens.”