8 foreigners, 1 Filipino face criminal charges after Tarlac POGO raid

Joann Manabat

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8 foreigners, 1 Filipino face criminal charges after Tarlac POGO raid

Foreign POGO workers of the raided Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated await the procedures to finish at the ground floor in one of the buildings of the POGO compound.

Joann Manabat/Rappler

The arrested individuals face trafficking, physical injuries, and serious illegal detention charges

TARLAC, Philippines – Eight foreigners and one Filipino were charged with cases after the midnight raid on a Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) compound in Bamban, Tarlac, early this week.

These individuals will face charges for alleged violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9208, as amended by 11862, or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022, and articles 266 (physical injuries) and 267 (serious illegal detention) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), after undergoing inquest proceeding held by a panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice:

  • Filipino: Maybeline Millo
  • Chinese: Wang Weili, Wuli Dong, Nung Ding Chang, Lang Xu Po, and Zhang Shi Cong
  • Vietnamese: Ma The Phong and Huang Yue Hai
  • Malaysian: Walter Wong Long

Inquest proceeding is a special preliminary investigation done if the alleged suspects were arrested without an arrest warrant. Under the RPC, a person arrested without a warrant should be brought to court within a maximum of 36 hours, and that is already for grave violations.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said the arrested Filipina was identified through a complaint from a fellow Filipina. Millo allegedly recruited individuals who were forced to become scammers, PAOCC spokesperson Winston Casio said.

“There are others who were charged as well because the Vietnamese here are being held against their will,” Casio added.

At least 658 foreign and Filipino workers were found in the internet gaming licensed (IGL) hub Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated during the raid on Wednesday, March 13. The number is composed of 383 Filipinos, 202 Chinese, 54 Vietnamese, 13 Malaysians, two Indonesians, two Rwandans, a Taiwanese, and a Kyrgyz. The PAOCC said at least 280 foreigners from the said list have no documents to legally stay in the country, adding that all foreign employees will be deported back to their countries.

The foreigners were transferred to the Nasdake building of the previously raided Smart Web Technology Corporation in Pasay City. The facility serves as the temporary detention facility for all foreigners rescued from raided POGOs in the country as they await deportation orders.

In addition, the PAOCC spokesperson also revealed that the POGO company has no offshore gaming employment license (OGEL) for its foreign employees, which made their employment illegal.

“For you to be able to work in a POGO or IGL, employees must have an OGEL. But they have nothing to show. There is not a single foreigner here who has an OGEL. So, they are all working here illegally,” Casio added in a mix of English and Filipino. “The POGO is legal, but this POGO does not have a single foreigner carrying an OGEL.”

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) issues OGELs. According to Pagcor’s implementing guidelines for POGOs, an OGEL gives a person the privilege to be employed in the offshore gaming industry.

Meanwhile, the PAOCC said they were still looking for other foreigners, particularly Vietnamese women, who “possibly” left the POGO facility before the raid. PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said the foreigners are essential to the probe because they can help strengthen the case against the suspects.

“Because this could further implicate them in the case of serious illegal detention and human trafficking. So, if they don’t surface, our case would be affected. Although our case is already strong, we want to strengthen it further,” Cruz said in a mix of English and Filipino. “So, we are still looking for the foreign nationals that we’re supposed to rescue.”

Scamming activities?

Authorities also seized alleged scamming paraphernalia like mobile phones, sim cards, and scripts from the raided POGO facility.

PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz shows the mobile phones placed in a steel frame used in scamming activities. Photo by Joann Manabat/Rappler

Cruz said they are also investigating the 34 vehicles found in the compound, noting that the vehicles do not match their attached license plates.

“They are changing their license plates. So, obviously, there are some inappropriate things being done. So the investigation intensified because of these findings,” Cruz said in a mix of English and Filipino.

8 foreigners, 1 Filipino face criminal charges after Tarlac POGO raid

He also said they will file additional search warrants to further check other paraphernalia inside the POGO facility. – Rappler.com

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