PNP investigates possible police ties to illegal POGOs

Bella Cariaso - Philstar.com
PNP investigates possible police ties to illegal POGOs
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 — The Philippine National Police (PNP) launched a probe on Monday into the accountability of the Central Luzon regional police director in connection with illegal Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

PNP chief Gen. Rommel Francisco Marbil confirmed that Central Luzon police director Brig. Gen. Jose Hidalgo would be investigated due to the number of POGO-related incidents in the region.

“We have issued warnings to police officers involved with POGOs, especially in areas like Bamban and Porac, where there are indications of possible police involvement,” Marbil said in Filipino during a press briefing at Camp Crame.

The PNP chief refrained from using the term “protector,” but noted that the circumstances warranted an investigation to determine whether it was a simple oversight, in the case of Hidalgo, or inefficiencies in the organization that contributed to these issues.

Marbil cited specific issues in Porac where the provincial director and the town’s chief of police were relieved due to a series of unresolved killings, including the deaths of foreigners. He also mentioned discovery of unidentified bodies that led to the removal of several police officers in Bamban town.

“These incidents should have been thoroughly investigated. Their failure to do so raised concerns,” Marbil said as he emphasized the importance of accountability and efficient police work, particularly in regions where illegal POGOs operate.

He added that the PNP is also coordinating with Pagcor, the regulatory body for gaming, highlighting the need for inter-agency cooperation.

“Scam farms primarily victimize people abroad, which makes it difficult for us to receive complaints locally. However, the discovery of illegal aliens and unexplained deaths led us to these operations,” Marbil explained.

Pagcor, in a press statement Monday, said the country’s integrated resorts and casinos remain as one of the main growth drivers of local tourism, creating a multiplier effect across various industries.

Ma. Vina Claudette Oca, Pagcor assistant vice president for gaming licensing and development, said during a panel discussion at the 1st Philippine Tourism and Hotel Investment Summit held over the weekend that casinos are just a small component of the many attractions offered by integrated resorts in the country.

She added that integrated casinos employ over 20,000 Filipinos, helping provide livelihood opportunities to locals.

Earlier, Pagcor chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said that POGOs are not the real enemies of the country but foreign crime syndicates – branded as AHaSS or alien hacking and scam syndicates.

Tengco said legitimate internet gaming licensees or IGLs, the recent acronym and nomenclature given to POGOs, generate funds for the government, contributing more than ?5 billion to Pagcor’s gross revenues in 2023. — Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mark Ernest Villeza, Ric Sapnu, Rainier Allan Ronda

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