July 6, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 599 views

ACTING on orders of Philippine National Police chief, General Benjamin C. Acorda Jr., the PNP Intelligence Group (PNP-IG) has stepped-up its monitoring of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator or POGO hubs in the country which are believed to be being used as ‘fronts’ for illegal online activities and other criminal activities, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

The top cop 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 assisted the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Sydney S. Hernia in investigating the background of the more than 1,000 other Asian nationals found working inside the raided and now already shut down Xinchuang Network Technology, Inc. located 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 discovered in the country 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.

Four wanted Chinese and two Taiwanese nationals were apprehended as a result of June 26 raid at the seven buildings of Xinhuang Network Techonology located along Alabang-Zapote Road in Almanza Uno, Las Piñas City.

The four Chinese nationals were identified as Zhang Quanbao, 29, a native of Fujian province wanted for contact fraud; Liming Yu,31, a native of Hunan province wanted for drug trafficking; Liu Jianxin,33, a native of Gansu province wanted for telecom fraud; and Song Hanmin,27, a native of Hubei province wanted for theft.

Taiwan has already requested for the transfer of custody of the two Taiwanese fugitives found working in the raided facility. They were identified as Yi-Liang Li and Hsin Chiang Huang, both the subject of a warrant of arrest for fraud issued by the Taiwan Taichung District Prosecutor’s Office.

Officers from the PNP-ACG and the PNP-IG, backed-up by operatives from the National Capital Region Police Office , the Highway Patrol Group, Special Action Force, EOD/K-9 and the Women and Children Protection Center implemented the search warrants issued against the four Chinese nationals as well as their Filipino incorporators identified as Danica Andres Mensah. Oliver Ong, Divina Trillanes Vidal and Daisy Vidal Cidro.

The warrants which were issued by Judge Phoeve Castillo Meer of the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court Branch 275 led in the discovery of the presence of 1,535 Filipinos and 1,193 foreigners working in the raided facilities.

The foreigners include 604 Chinese, 183 Vietnamese, 137 Indonesians, 134 Malaysians, 81 Thailanders, 2 Africans, 21 Taiwanese, 7 Nigerians, 5 Singaporeans, 5 Myanmar nationals, 4 Yemenis, 2 Pakistanis, 1 Somalian, 1 Sudanese, 1 Cameroon national and 1 Iranian.

All foreign nationals found working in the raided sites have been subjected to a thorough background examination by the PNP agents with the assistance of their respective embassies.

Officials said that so far this year, 14 Asian fugitives who fled to Manila to work in local POGO hubs have been arrested as a result of police raids.

Brig. Gen. Hernia said that the active participation and cooperation of different foreign embassies including the Chinese Embassy which assisted in documenting their respective nationals and in conducting a cross-matching of the aliens’ records led to the identification of the six fugitives.

The official said that the June 26 raid led to the ‘liberation’ of nearly 3,000 individuals subjected to exploitative conditions.

Over 1,000 Filipino workers have been safely released and allowed to return to their homes.

However, law enforcement authorities gathered the personal information of the remaining 1,000 plus foreign nationals prior to their turnover to the Bureau of Immigration for proper disposition and repatriation process.

Last June 30, five Chinese suspects were subjected to inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice in Manila for violation of Section 4 (j)(1)(2) of Republic Act 10364, as further amended by Republic Act 11862 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022), in relation to Section 6 of Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012).

Brig. Gen. Hernia said that during the May 4 raid at the Sun Valley Hub located in Mabalacat City in Pampanga, over 1,000 foreign nationals were also rescued.

He said that six Chinese nationals and one Taiwanese who are also facing various criminal offenses were among those found working in the raided facility.

The official said that a thorough investigation is continuing in order to uncover the full extent of this trafficking operation, regardless of the nationality or background of the offenders to protect the rights of all individuals and ensure that justice is served.”

PNP Public Information Office chief, Brig. Gen. Redrico A. Maranan said that given these developments, it is imperative to conduct thorough profiling of the foreign POGO employees in Las Piñas so that any wanted persons are prevented from working and hiding here in our country and ensure that all those working in the POGO industry are not involved in criminal activities.

“The safety and security of both the local and foreign nationals are of paramount concern, and the PNP remains dedicated in combating cybercrime and human trafficking activities embedded in the POGO industry,” he said.

To ensure the proper handling of the rescued victims, the PNP will complete the necessary documentation process and formalities before turning over these Chinese fugitives to the Chinese Embassy officials.

“ This collaboration between law enforcement agencies is crucial in upholding justice and promoting international cooperation in addressing cross-border criminal activities,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Maranan also categorically denied reports that there was a ‘stray bullet victim’ within the compound during a foild attempt by some of the foreigners to flee the facility.

“ Moreover, it is important to clarify that those who suffered minor injuries when they attempted to cross the high fence with barbed wire received immediate medical treatment from the PNP and Las Pinas City medical teams on standby since day one of the operations,” he said.

“We urge the public to always rely only on verified information from credible sources. We appeal to individuals who are spreading unverified information to refrain from doing so, as it creates confusion among the public. Such actions can potentially lead to violation of existing laws. The PNP emphasizes the importance of responsible dissemination of information to the public,” he added.

Investigators are also checking the papers of the raided Las Piñas facility amid reports that they have listed only around 100 employees in their request for permit although officers found over 2,700 workers during the raid last week in what has been described by officials as a ‘blatant’ effort’ to cheat the government thru non-payment of proper tax.

Many of the foreigners were found to have no passports.

An investigation showed that the workers were recruited through online job postings, mostly on Facebook, Telegram, and WhatsApp, to work as call center agents and were promised high salaries and good working conditions.