Senator urges probe to know who’s behind Porac POGO hub

(GMA NEWS) Senator Lito Lapid on Tuesday called for an investigation into the people behind the raided Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hub in Porac, Pampanga.

“Nararapat na magsagawa ng masusing imbestigasyon upang malaman kung sino ang mga taong tunay na nagmamay-ari ng mga lupa at mga building na ginagamit sa POGO at ang kompanyang nagpapatakbo dito nang sa ganun malaman ang buong katotohanan kung sino talaga ang nasa likod ng mga POGO,” Lapid said in a statement. 

(A thorough investigation is warranted so we could find out who are the people behind the land and the buildings used for POGO. We also need to find out the company operating this so we could know the truth behind these POGOs.) 

He further said the crimes committed inside the POGO hubs in Pampanga and Bamban, Tarlac should not only be condemned but needs a swift action from the government in order for those responsible to be held liable. 

Meanwhile, several senators expressed concern over the country’s security following the discovery of alleged uniforms of the Chinese military inside the Porac POGO hub.  

Senator Risa Hontiveros asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to implement a total ban on POGOs. 

“The implications of these uniforms should send chills down our spine. It is so clear that every POGO has exploited our economic vulnerabilities and that POGOs have now evolved into a breeding ground for crime and a national security threat,” she said in a statement. 

Hontiveros added that she would file a bill to repeal Republic Act 11590 or the POGO tax law, a measure signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte which imposes more taxes on offshore gaming companies in the country. 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also agreed that the recent discovery is another reason for the government to finally prohibit POGOs from operating in the country. 

“This is clear evidence that POGOs are a national security threat to our nation. It has opened the doors, not only to criminal syndicates, but also to those who want to destabilize and infiltrate our governmental and political institutions,” his statement read. 

For her part, Senator Grace Poe noted that a ban on POGOs would save the government money as raids on such facilities have become costly already. 

“For every operation against a POGO, the government spends millions for the personnel needed, food, and shelter of the rescued, deportation of undesirables, filling of court cases, and other related expenses,” she said. 

“We reiterate our call for a resolute policy banning POGOs. This will not only bring a permanent halt to their illegal activities, but will also plug the utilization of government resources, which could have otherwise been spent on useful social services for our people.”

Senate Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) uniforms, whether genuine or mere props, serve as a strong indication that the extent of scams perpetrated by the unscrupulous individuals is beyond comprehension.

“Authorities investigating this POGO hub should thoroughly examine the extent of operations carried out by the suspected criminal syndicates associated with Lucky South Outsourcing Inc.,” he said in a statement.

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines understand the public’s concern, it said the camouflage uniforms found in the raided POGO hub could have been used only as props for its online scams. 

Over 150 foreigners, mostly Chinese, were rescued from the POGO hub. Most of them, however, do not have passports. Meanwhile, four of the rescued individuals were kidnap victims

Meanwhile, Senator Bong Revilla, who is in favor of POGO operations in the country, said that their licenses should not be used to do illicit activities. 

“We support any and all steps of the government in curbing these transgressions against the prevailing rule of law in our country, and we stress that national security, welfare and the safety of our citizens should always take precedence,” he said.—Vince Angelo Ferreras/AOL, GMA Integrated News