Fugitives hiding in POGO hubs alarming–PNP chief

July 10, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 348 views

PHILIPPINE Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hubs literally harbouring and employing foreigners wanted in their own countries is ‘alarming’ and must be addressed thru close monitoring of these facilities, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda said.

He was referring to the recent arrest of four wanted Chinese and three Taiwanese inside a POGO hub in Las Piñas City, as well as the other wanted Chinese arrested during an operation in a similar establishment inside Clark Freeport Zone in Mabalacat City in Pampanga.

“That (arrest of wanted foreigners) is quite alarming. In line with that, there must be a constant coordination between the PNP and the Bureau of Immigration to arrest other criminals.

Our Directorate for Intelligence is keeping a close watch on this,” Gen. Acorda said.

The PNP chief earlier instructed PNP-IG director Colonel Romeo J. Macapaz to monitor POGO facilities where illegal activities like human trafficking, kidnapping and cyber-crime activities are taking place and where foreign fugitives may be hiding too.

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

The hub is believed to be being operated by a group of Chinese nationals, four of them identified as one alias ‘Quiha Lu,’ Liangfei Chen, Jimmy Lin and Abbey Ng.

Acorda said they have received reports that some POGO facilities are being used to ‘cover-up’ illegal activities and they are now checking the veracity of this report.

PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group director Brigadier Gen. Sydney S. Hernia said they discovered the presence of fugitive Asians during the Clark and Las Piñas City raids.

However, he added that they would be only able to find out if other POGO facilities in the country are engaged in the same illicit activity and are employing wanted aliens as soon as they launch operations against them.

The official said he has already talked with PAGCOR officials led by chairman Alejandro H. Tengco and suggested the need to closely monitor and inspect POGO hubs across the country.

The surprise inspections must be conducted by officers from PAGCOR, the PNP-ACG, the Bureau of Immigration and concerned local government units and other agencies.

Hernia said that PAGCOR has sought their inputs as the agency is set to come up with changes in its policies to address the POGO problems.

Hernia admitted that they have discovered the presence of wanted foreigners working in the raided POGO hubs with the help of concerned embassies.

In the Las Piñas City raid, they found out that more than 700 of the apprehended foreigners have no passports. The same also was discovered during the Clark raid.

The official said they are also still investigating reports that employees of the raided Las Piñas POGO facility managed to victimized countless residents of two provinces in China.

Hernia said that they have recommended several measures to address the increasing number of online crimes in the country although he explained that the trend is worldwide.

“What we’re doing is to address different variations of these scams as we have to invest on massive information dissemination.

A massive public awareness campaign para malaman ng mga tao na hindi sila dapat magpa-scam, para malaman ng mga walang kamuwang-muwang ang mga paraan para hindi malipat ang bank accounts nila sa sindikato,” he said.

He said that they are getting support from Gen. Acorda, who himself used to be assigned to the PNP-ACG.

The official said that at present, there are 17 Regional Anti-Cybercrime Units and 18 Provincial Anti-Cybercrime Units which are really not enough to address concerns being raised by the citizenry almost everyday.

The PNP-ACG’s manpower strength is only around 800. Hernia said there is a need to recruit more cyber cops since people already know they have to go to the PNP-ACG to file a cyber complaint.