POGOs

Chinese victims confirm torture, kidnapping in raided IGL in Pasay

Joann Manabat

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Chinese victims confirm torture, kidnapping in raided IGL in Pasay

TORTURE. Some of the Chinese victims (right) of torture and kidnapping at the raided Smart Web Technology Corporation recount their experiences to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission and the media at the Internet Gaming License hub in Pasay City on November 3, 2023.

Authorities discover a torture chamber in Smart Web Technology Corporation's office in Pasay City where victims were hit with a stick and beaten up for not meeting their quotas

PASAY, Philippines – At least nine Chinese victims have confirmed incidents of torture and kidnapping at the internet gaming license (IGL) hub, Smart Web Technology Corporation, in Pasay City following a raid by authorities last October 27, Friday.

Among the nine Chinese, five were tortured while four others were kidnapped from other IGL firms, according to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said some of the perpetrators have already been identified by the victims, and appropriate charges will be filed as their testimonies establish the violations committed inside the IGL hub.

Department of Justice Undersecretary Nicolas Felix Ty said the suspects will undergo regular preliminary investigation on November 14.

Ty said the investigation on incidents of sexual trafficking as well as labor trafficking in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) is ongoing.

“The case is moving. Their preliminary investigation is scheduled on November 14, if I’m not mistaken. Apart from that, we have additional perpetrators since the inquest was for the sexual trafficking of the POGO. But we also have another aspect which is labor trafficking,” said Ty on Friday, November 3.

Ty said the Philippine government is determined to hold the traffickers accountable, and hopes more victims will identify the perpetrators and testify against them.

Chinese victims confirm torture, kidnapping in raided IGL in Pasay

Authorities discovered a torture chamber in the ground floor where handcuffs, camouflage uniforms, truncheons (including dented baseball bats), and a replica of a firearm were also found. 

Two of the victims revealed before the media on Friday that torture also happened at the gaming offices in rooms 566 and 568 on the 4th floor of the building.

The two torture victims recounted being hit with a stick while the other was kicked and punched several times for not meeting the quota set by management. 

The victims were tasked to find at least 10 clients per day in an online dating app used for the company’s love scam, apart from being made to work long hours, they said.

“Pag light offenses, sa office nalang sinusuntok at sinasaktan at pinapalo ng stick. But yung medyo grave ang offense, sa torture chamber siguro nadadala,” said Cruz.

(For light offenses, they are punched and maimed and struck with a stick in the office. But for grave offenses, they are probably brought to the torture chamber.)

One of the kidnapped victims, Victor (not his real name), was a former POGO worker in Pampanga. He was allegedly “sold” to work at Smart Web, while his Filipina wife, Mary (not her real name), worked in the company’s housekeeping department.

In November 2022, Victor tried but failed to escape by jumping off a moving coaster van following a transfer from the POGO office in Pampanga where he initially worked. He and his wife were detained at a Quezon City police station where he was allegedly “bailed out” and transferred to Smart Web.

Tinubos siya sa Galas police station. Na-detain kami doon, kasama ako doon. Hindi ko alam kung taga dito yung tumubos sa kaniya eh basta tinubos daw sila doon. Binalik kami dito (Smart Web). Hindi ko naman alam kung may pera basta sabi lang tinubos daw,” Mary said

(He was bailed out at the Galas police station. We were detained there, I was there also. I don’t know if those who bailed him out are from here. They were just bailed out there. They brought us back here. I don’t know if there’s money involved, they just said they were bailed out.)

Mary said Victor only wanted to go home to Cagayan de Oro where they live. They were married in May 2022, she said.

“Gusto niya ng umuwi, hindi siya pinauwi. Ang sabi victim daw, akala ko naman i-ano kami doon sa immigration, yun pala dadalhin kami dito (Smart Web).”

(He just wanted to go home, he was not allowed to. They said they are victims, I thought we were going to be brought to immigration but instead we we brought here.)

Another kidnapped victim was also held inside the Smart Web for eight months. He said a “loan shark” representative offered him P500,000 after losing a game at a casino in Pasay. In order to pay his debt, he was taken to Smart Web to work.

Nakikita natin gaano kalakas, kahaba ang kamay ng mga POGO going to Manila from province. Nakukuha ang gustong makuha para maibalik sa ganitong trabaho,” said Cruz.

(We can see how strong, how far is the reach of the POGOs going to Manila from the province. They can get what they want so they can return to this job.)

Cruz also said the police officers allegedly involved were relieved from their posts and are being investigated. The PAOCC said they will also file criminal and administrative charges against the policemen.

The PAOCC said their goal is not just to run after the Chinese but also those behind the sexual and labor trafficking. They also appealed to local government units to be more proactive in checking the various POGOs in their area.

A total of 448 foreign nationals – 412 Chinese, 23 Vietnamese, 6 Koreans, 5 Malaysians, and 2 Taiwanese – are currently detained at Smart Web. PAOCC said most of the Filipino workers have been released except those who were involved in recruitment for the prostitution den. – Rappler.com

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