Syndicates pretending as POGOs pose national security threat — Teodoro

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Syndicates pretending as POGOs pose national security threat � Teodoro
This undated handout photograph received from Philippines' Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on March 14, 2024 shows a police officer (front, center) talking to foreign nationals after a raid in a 10-hectare (25-acre) complex of buildings in Bamban town of Tarlac province, north of Manila. Hundreds of people forced to work in an online scam centre in the Philippines were rescued in a pre-dawn raid on March 14 that also saw eight suspects arrested, according to police. Police found 432 Chinese nationals, 371 Filipinos, 57 Vietnamese, eight Malaysians, three Taiwanese, two Indonesians and two Rwandans at the site.
Photo by Philippines' Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Criminal syndicates posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) must be stopped as they pose national security concerns, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Wednesday.

Teodoro made the remarks a day after the Philippine Navy said that it does not yet consider POGOs as a threat to the country’s national security. 

"The concern is that we should stop these syndicated criminal activities operating out of our base, which weaken our financial standing, our country ratings, (and) corrupt our society," Teodoro said, according to a press release from the Department of National Defense (DND).

Teodoro explained that while some POGOs operate legitimately as business process outsourcing establishments, there are differences between these and illegal operators.

"For example, there are legitimate POGOs where the bets and the payoffs are taken from other countries (such as) horse racing in Europe, (and) sports betting; only the matching of bets and payouts are done here but the bets originate (from) outside (the country),” he said.

(For example, there are legitimate POGOs where the bets and payoffs are sourced from other countries, such as horse racing in Europe and sports betting. Only the matching of bets and payouts is done here, while the bets originate from outside the country.)

“Yung POGO na alam natin (dito sa Pilipinas) na operated to evade the ban on gambling in China, the bets originate here. So, may diperensya," he added.

(The POGO we are familiar with here in the Philippines operates to evade the ban on gambling in China, with the bets originating locally. So, there is that difference.)

The DND noted that authorities are currently analyzing evidence gathered from POGO activities and the recent raids conducted in Tarlac and Pampanga.

In a raid on a POGO in Porac, Pampanga conducted last June 10, uniforms associated with China’s People’s Liberation Army were discovered along with military medals.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, these uniforms might be used as props by POGO workers in their illegal online transactions.

In March, a large POGO hub in Bamban, Tarlac was also raided by authorities where a total of 800 Filipinos and foreign nationals were rescued.

Following the raid, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission deported 165 Chinese nationals on May 15, with two individuals withheld to face trafficking charges.

The raid has also led senators to question suspended Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo about her alleged connections to the POGO hub and her status as a Filipino citizen.

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