PNP recorded four times more POGO-related crimes in 2022 than 2019

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
PNP recorded four times more POGO-related crimes in 2022 than 2019
Six Chinese workers of illegal Philippine offshore gaming operators line up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Wuhan, China on October 21, 2022, after the Bureau of Immigration ordered their deportation.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Crimes related to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators have increased fourfold since 2019, according to a report shown by the Philippine National Police at a Senate hearing on Monday.

Police Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, director for Investigation and Detective Management, presented the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drug data showing that in 2022 alone, authorities recorded 40 POGO-related crimes — at least four times more than the nine reported in 2019 before the pandemic.

The highest number of POGO-related incidents in a single year was reported in 2021 at 42, while 11 cases were reported in 2020.

PNP did not record any incidents related to POGOs in 2017 and 2018.

Of the 102 POGO-related cases since 2019, at least 35 have reached court. Only one case has so far led to a conviction, PNP data also showed.

These incidents involved kidnap for ransom, kidnapping and illegal detention. 

The  findings presented by PNP officials at the Senate hearing on the recent abductions allegedly connected to POGO are meant to help the committee decide whether a ban on the gaming operators is necessary. The committee is chaired by Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, himself a former chief of the PNP.

An advocacy group for victims of kidnap-for-ransom warned authorities during the hearing that allowing illegal POGO firms to continue their operations will drive crimes up.

"POGO-related crimes may increase significantly or even exponentially because the criminal syndicates behind the said crimes will become emboldened by the lack of consequences of their criminal activities," said Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order president Ka Kuen Chua.

Chua added that not revoking the license of POGOs accused of being involved in abductions "serves only as a message to the criminal involved that they can continue their criminal activities with impunity and without immediate consequences from the government."

RELATED: POGOs linked to kidnapping Filipinos still in business, PAGCOR admits)

Three Chinese nationals arrested

During the hearing, Police Col. Byron Tabernilla — former chief of the Pasay City Police Station —  said that they have arrested three Chinese nationals connected to the abduction incident described by Sen. Grace Poe in a privilege speech in December. 

Poe detailed an incident where a woman was lured by a job offer before being kidnapped and taken under ransom at a POGO dormitory in Cavite. 

To identify the individuals behind the abduction, Tabernilla said that they traced the owner of the vehicle shown in the video footage presented by Poe in December. 

After learning that the vehicle was being rented, the police went to the address of the drivers, who said that they received their orders to abduct from the three Chinese nationals. 

"While we were debriefing the drivers, it was a coincidence that they received a text from one of the Chinese nationals who was looking for a vehicle. That’s when we arranged for the Filipino driver to meet with them because they were planning to abduct a new target," Tabernilla said. 

Pasay police have also identified the nationality of the victim, who is Malaysian, not Filipino-Chinese, as stated in Poe’s speech.

Police who arrested the Chinese nationals recovered two unlicensed and unregistered firearms from them. 

After being shown pictures of the handguns, Dela Rosa asked authorities how the Chinese nationals acquired expensive weapons without declaring these to the Firearms and Explosives Office of PNP.

"This is not a simple organized crime. The Kimber, that is the most expensive handgun I own. This means the syndicates have a lot of money to buy expensive firearm. And to think they don’t have records," Dela Rosa said. "Was it smuggled?"

Police authorities have yet to identify whether the three Chinese nationals who allegedly ordered the kidnapping are employed with the POGO company that owned the dormitory, Tabernilla said.

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