Are POGOs China's 'Trojan horse'? NICA investigates

Jose Rodel Clapano - Philstar.com
Are POGOs China's 'Trojan horse'? NICA investigates
ILLEGAL POGO BUSTED: Chinese nationals ride a police vehicle following their arrest for an illegal offshore gambling operation in Barangay Tambo, Parañaque the other night. Forty-four Chinese nationals and nine Filipinos were nabbed and dozens of computers were seized during the raid.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) director Ricardo de Leon said that his agency is validating all information, including the angle that Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) may have been China’s “Trojan horse” – referring to Greek mythology that led to the fall of Troy.

“On Trojan horse, we continue to validate. We cannot say yet that they are capable,” De Leon said.

Cruz said that one of the equipment confiscated during a POGO raid in Pasay City was communication equipment with foreign characters, which experts said may have been used to directly communicate with China.

De Leon said this equipment, as well as other pieces of evidence, are being subjected to forensic examination.

“NICA is coordinating with our intelligence counterpart in other countries for experts to intervene,” De Leon said.

However, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is too early to say if the illegal POGO hub in Pampanga is involved in espionage.

PNP chief information officer Col. Jean Fajardo said investigators have yet to secure evidence that would show that the people inside the raided compound were spying on the country’s government facilities.

Fajardo said the hundreds of computers, cellphones and gadgets seized from the POGO hub have yet to be examined as police will still have to apply for a warrant to examine computer data from a court.

Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission also found what appeared to be military uniforms from the People’s Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party, during the raid. They also found a Chinese military sergeant badge, a handgun and several bullets on Wednesday.

Fajardo said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group is investigating if the uniforms and those who wore them are indeed connected with the Chinese military.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said Tuesday the presence of Chinese military uniforms may likely be used as props in these illicit online transactions. The limited number of PLA uniforms found suggests they are more indicative of use in deceptive activities rather than any preparation for invasion.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said that while not yet a national security threat, POGO sites in the country are now a national security concern.

“The concern is that we should stop these syndicated criminal activities operating out of our base, which weaken our financial standing, our country ratings… corrupt our society,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

De Leon said it is up to the policymakers whether to ban or to just regulate POGO operations in the country.

“We are calling on our policymakers to review POGO. Are we gaining or losing the war because it is affecting the youth. The policymakers are the ones making the laws. We gather inputs which we provide to our leaders,” De Leon said.

Speaker Martin Romualdez has expressed openness to the existence of POGO in the country, but issued a stern reminder that all Philippine laws must be strictly adhered to the letter.   Michael Punongbayan, Emmanuel Tupas, Louise Maureen Simeon, Delon Porcalla

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