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PAMPANGA, Philippines – The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) and the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP CIDG) conducted a December 23 raid on the wrong Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) in Pasay City that led to the release of 173 foreigners.
Based on the inquest resolution obtained by Rappler, the GAB and CIDG implemented four search warrants to search, seize, and examine computer data. The warrants were addressed to six individuals: Ryan Hao, Ely Chan, Ian Lim, Bao Ma, Raymond Tan, and Noe Ming, alleged owners and operators of Xing Yao Company, and other occupants in four floors of the HC Bay Hotel at Seascape Village, CCP Complex.
The warrants, issued by the Regional Trial Court National Capital Judicial Region, Office of the Executive Judge Racquelen Abary-Vasquez, were for alleged violation of Presidential Decree 1602 or “Prescribing Stiffer Penalties for Illegal Gambling” in relation to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
The inquest stated that the foreigners found working onsite were actually employees of Tri Technology Corporation, a POGO licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The inquest said that the foreigners were not employees of Xing Yao Company or those named in the search warrants.
The 173 foreigners underwent inquest proceedings on December 25, two days after the raid. They were ordered released on December 27.
During the raid, a Chinese man tried to escape and fractured his right leg by jumping from the second floor of the hotel building.
The attending nurse, Staff Sergeant Joemari Gumaru, said the Chinese flew back to China on December 29 for his surgery, but will return to the Philippines to work. Gumaru clarified that the injured Chinese is not employed in the wrongly raided POGO.
Sought for comment about the raid, Lieutenant Colonel Marissa Bruno of the PNP CIDG Public Information Office denied to Rappler that there was an operation last December 23 in Pasay City, based on their report.
Rappler reached out to GAB but to no avail as of posting.
Pasay City police chief Colonel Mario Mayames, however, confirmed the raid led by GAB and CIDG. Mayames added that the local police were not allowed to enter the building, and they were also not given details of the raid.
“So, in short, there was a raid. It is legal because they were armed with a search warrant. The lead agency there is GAB and CIDG. Us local police, we were not able to go up because we were disallowed. They said we are not allowed so we stayed outside the building,” Mayames told Rappler in a mix of Filipino and English.
“We are the local so it’s in our jurisdiction. But the agency who led here was CIDG and GAB so the details, the names and nationalities, we don’t have. They actually refused to give us so we did not get the details,” he added.
Mayames said they are implementing Oplan ReACT POGO or Repress Acts of Criminals Targeting POGO, which includes checking compliance with government requirements and protecting workers.
“As long as they have permits, they have licenses, we are also obliged to protect them because they have complied with the requirements of our government,” he said.
The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said it respects what law enforcers are doing.
PAOCC spokesperson Winston Casio said government agencies should have a cooperative effort in conducting operations to prevent “encroaching” on each other’s mandates.
Casio also said the operating units should have been more transparent with the basis of their operations as well as the evidence they presented in court.
“The commission fully respects the conduct of legitimate law enforcement rooted on valid orders of the courts. In saying this, PAOCC would like to believe that the operations conducted by GAB together with detailed personnel from the PNP CIDG is legitimate unless proven otherwise,” Casio told Rappler on Thursday, January 4.
“The latter is crucial given that all the cases filed against the apprehended individuals have been recommended for future investigation owing to insufficiency,” he said. “In the case of Tri Tech, the question in everyone’s mind is why did they operate against a legitimate internet gaming license duly certified by Pagcor.” – Rappler.com