SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian yesterday called for for reforms addressing the country’s problems related to Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
Attending the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality’s hearing chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros on alleged human trafficking and “scam hubs” resulting from POGO operations, Gatchalian asked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) on the “framework” it is preparing to strengthen its regulation of offshore gaming, although he maintained that POGOs should not anymore be allowed in the country.
“Are these put into an action plan?” he asked the Pagcor. “Because of all of these crimes rising…we are now a human trafficking hub, not only a POGO hub, but the human trafficking hub of the world. So it’s just common sense that POGO is not bringing any benefit to our country. It’s bringing shame,” Gatchalian stressed.
Senator Hontiveros, who presides over the continuation of the public inquiry on the existence of ‘scam hub’ operations in the country that are allegedly hiding behind licensed gambling businesses of registered POGO revealed that syndicates continue to commit human trafficking and racketeering, among other illicit acts, to man ‘scam hubs’ usually controlled by dubious foreign nationals.
“After several hearings it is getting clearer and clearer that these human trafficking hubs are energized by and find refuge under POGOs. Our failure to regulate these online gambling outfits has resulted in these spaces of human desperation right under our noses,” Hontiveros said.
For his part, Senator Raffy Tulfo grills officers of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) on the procedures they followed in raiding a POGO in Las Piñas City last June.
Tulfo told PNP-ACG director Police Brig. Gen. Sidney Hernia of their group’s lapses, specifically, for failing to properly coordinate with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), led by the Department of Justice (DOJ); and for “haphazardly” conducting the search, resulting in insufficient evidence for human trafficking charges.