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Acorda to PNP-IG: Step up drive vs POGO hubs turned crime havens

July 25, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 292 views

AcordaPHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief General Benjamin C. Acorda Jr. has ordered the PNP Intelligence Group (PNP-IG) to step-up its drive against Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator or POGO hubs that are actually used as ‘fronts’ for illegal online activities and other criminal activities.

Acorda instructed PNP-IG director Colonel Romeo J. Macapaz to monitor POGO facilities where foreign fugitives may be hiding and used as a haven for human trafficking, kidnapping and cyber-crime activities.

He gave as an example the Las Piñas City facility where officers recovered more than 100,000 different SIM cards.

The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Sydney S. Hernia is leading the crackdown amid a recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Indonesia wherein Southeast Asian leaders, including President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., pledged to crack down online scams.

The PNP-IG assisted the PNP-ACG in investigating the background of the more than 1,000 other Asians found working inside the raided Xinchuang Network Technology, Inc. in Las Piñas City.

The PNP-IG also provided the PNP-ACG with the ‘intelligence packet’ which resulted in the raid at what has been considered as the biggest trafficking hub in the country.

Acorda said that the presence of POGO hubs literally harboring and employing foreigners wanted in their own countries is ‘alarming’ and must be addressed through close monitoring of these facilities.

Different Asian embassies have earlier requested the PNP to continue guarding their citizens who were found being employed by the Las Piñas City-based POGO hub which has been accused of engaging in human trafficking and other banned online activities.

Both the PNP and the Bureau of Immigration said they have been getting requests from different Asian embassies to keep guarding the raided facility where almost 100,000 SIM cards believed being used by the syndicate to gyp victims abroad were found and are now being subjected to digital forensic examination.

One of the POGO’s alleged bosses has turned out to be also wanted in China, bringing to eight the number of Asian fugitives arrested during the operation.

The 45-year old male Chinese was arrested after it was confirmed that he is the subject of a warrant of detention issued by the China Public Security Bureau due to his involvement in illegal business.

Hernia said that last July 5, they turned over the first seven fugitives they arrested as a result of the raid to the BI’s Fugitive Section Unit. He said that the seven –four Chinese and three Taiwanese-were among the workers found hiding in the Las Piñas City complex.

The seven are wanted for various crimes, including contract fraud, drug trafficking, telecom fraud and theft.

Similarly, arrest warrants have been issued by the Taoyuan and Taichung District Prosecutors Office in Taiwan for the Taiwanese fugitives on charges of fraud and causing bodily harm.

PNP spokesperson, Colonel Jean Fajardo, said that the latest fugitive discovered has turned out to be one of the subjects of the warrant to search, seize and detain order issued by a local court.

According to the PNP-ACG director, the identification of minors among the rescued victims serves as a stark reminder that the fight against human trafficking requires continuous vigilance and collaboration.

This development has prompted calls for a much closer coordination between the PNP, the BI and other concerned government agencies when it comes to addressing the POGO problem.

“This is a wake-up call. Hindi lang big boss ng POGO, may pito pang wanted sa mga na-rescue kaya babalik na naman tayo sa BI since they are the first line of defense.

Ang question dito eh dumaan ba sa BI o dumaan ba sila thru the backdoors? Papano nakapasok yung dalawang minors at nagtrabaho dun,” Col. Fajardo said.