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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Criminal pogo fronts real threats — Gibo

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PAOCC says 300 POGOS operating illegally

Criminals posing as POGO hubs are national security concerns, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said as the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission reported some 300 offshore gaming operators are illegally operating in the country.

“The concern is that we should stop these syndicated criminal activities operating out of our base, which weaken our financial standing, our country ratings, [and] corrupt our society,” Teodoro said.

At the Lucky South 99 POGO compound in Porac, Pampanga, more alleged Chinese military uniforms were recovered – as well as sex toys and animals.

Continue inspection of the 46 buildings in the POGO hub yielded four more sets of camouflage uniforms with buttons bearing the initials PLA (the acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army) and one bearing the marks “airborne” as well as an alleged badge of a Chinese military sergeant.

Cruz said they also recovered a video where females were being asked to dance naked.

“They were selling it online so there’s sexual exploitation here,” he said.

PAOCC Usec. Gilbert Cruz said the 300 illegal POGOs continued to operate even as their licenses from Pagcor have already expired.

“When they felt that their license won’t be renewed anymore due to violations they are committing, they decided not to reapply…These entities don’t want to be regulated,” Cruz said.

Pagcor chairman and chief executive Alejandro Tengco said based on their data, around 255 former POGOs are running illegally despite having their licenses revoked in September 2023 due to criminal activities.

Tengco said from 298 POGOs in 2023, the number went down to 43 active licenses at present.

“We found that many of those who have this license were not operating as overseas gaming. They used Pagcor’s license for criminal activities, such as credit card fraud, investment fraud, cryptocurrency fraud, love match and love scam fraud,” he said.

To differentiate legitimate operators from illegal POGOs, Pagcor now refers to its overseas gaming operators as IGLs, or Internet Gaming Licensees, Tengco said.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it is forming a task force to look into the POGO hub raided in Bamban, Tarlac to see if a mayor’s permit was issued.

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. said POGOs would have a hard time operating for so long without a permit.

“Well, we are looking into the whole incident. I am asking for a report on how such a big complex can conduct these kinds of activities. We are looking at all angles,” Abalos said.

For his part, Speaker Martin Romualdez warned POGO operators to comply with the law or face arrest.

Romualdez said he was “open to hearing issues” concerning the gambling firms.

In February, a House panel approved a bill seeking to ban POGOs in the country, but it has yet to be tackled at the plenary.

The Makabayan bloc on Tuesday also filed a separate bill seeking to prohibit and criminalize offshore gaming operations in the country.

“There is a process. That will also go through the process, in the hearings. We will listen to all stakeholders about their position on the issue, and then we will weigh in on what we should do,” Romualdez said.


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