Gatchalian says Porac POGO most brutal, violent hub, renews call for total ban

Joann Manabat

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Gatchalian says Porac POGO most brutal, violent hub, renews call for total ban

OCULAR VISIT. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian conducts ocular inspection of the recently concluded search operation of the POGO, Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Incorporated, in Porac, Pampanga on Monday, June 24.

Joann Manabat/Rappler

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian renews his call for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to ban outright all POGOs following the illegal activities uncovered during search operation of Lucky South 99 Outsourcing in Porac, Pampanga

PAMPANGA, Philippines – “Ito na marahil ang pinaka brutal, pinaka violente, pinakamalaking POGO hub na nakitia natin.” (This is probably the most brutal, the most violent, largest POGO hub that we’ve seen.)

This was what Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, said on Monday, June 24, following an ocular inspection of the recently concluded search operation of Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Incorporated at the Thai Royal Court in Sitio Pulung Maba, Porac, Pampanga.

He came to this conclusion despite inspecting only three of the 46 buildings in the complex. The stench of dead rats and rotten food in the area were overwhelming during his inspection.

Gatchalian then renewed his call for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to ban POGOs.

He also recommended the Department of Interior and Local Government to suspend Porac Mayor Jaime Capil.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) and Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) concluded their search operation on June 14. 

SEIZED. Around 2,312 computers were seized from the work stations of Lucky South 99 at the Thai Royal Court in Porac, Pampanga. Joann Manabat/Rappler

The PNP-CDG seized a total of 2,312 computers, some text blasters, SIM cloning devices, mobile phones, and other scam paraphernalia, as well as, what appeared to be Chinese military uniforms, baseball bats, and electric rods. A separate court order is also set to break open all 53 vaults discovered at the Porac site.

Gatchalian described POGO hubs as hotbeds for various illicit activities including human trafficking, forced labor, and various scam activities. Among the areas checked were the POGO offices, entertainment area with KTVs, motel rooms, prostitution den, an “aquarium,” as well as dormitory rooms.

ENTERTAINMENT AREA.  Among the areas checked during the ocular visit was the 3-storey entertainment area with KTVs, motel rooms, an “aquarium” as well as dorm rooms. Photo by Joann Manabat/Rappler)

The senator has pushed for the banning of POGOs since March 2023. Gatchalian said that the POGO facilities, despite once holding licenses from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), have become breeding grounds for criminal syndicates preying on vulnerable foreign and Filipino individuals.

“Yan talaga ang panawagan natin na i–ban na ang mga POGOs sa bansa dahil walang legal. Ang illegal, kagaya nito meron lisensya (pero) ang ganitong operation at scamming operations di mo magagawa in six months or one year, matagal na plano ito,” said Gatchalian.

(That is really out of our call to ban POGOs in the country because there is nothing legal. It’s illegal, like this, this operation may have a license. However, you cannot do scamming operations in six months or one year just like that. This has been planned for a long time.)

The mere design ng facility, sinadya ito for scamming, nakita niyo na ang disenyo para sa crypto scam, love scam, at iba pang scam. Kaya panawagan sa pangulo na i-ban na,” he added.

(The mere design of the facility, it is meant for scamming. We have seen the design for crypto scam, love scam, and other scams. We call on the president to ban it.)

Gatchalian urged accountability from all stakeholders, including local government units and Pagcor. He said there was a need for stringent vetting processes and heightened regulatory scrutiny to prevent further exploitation of legal loopholes by criminal elements.

LARGEST POGO. The 10-hectare Royal Thai Court houses Lucky South 99, a self-contained POGO hub with restaurants, barbershop, residential and entertainment area, among others. Joann Manabat/Rappler

Five major raid operations have been conducted by the authorities since May 2023, four of which were led by the PAOCC: Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation in Clark Freeport, SA Rivendell and Smart Web Technology Corporation in Pasay City, Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated in Bamban, Tarlac, and Lucky South 99 in Porac, Pampanga.

Intercepted in Davao Airport

Meanwhile, Jie Zhang, 31, a suspected manager of Lucky South 99, was intercepted at the Davao International Airport on Sunday night, June 23, said PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz.

Cruz said although most of the foreign POGO workers are still in the country, there are still some executives of Lucky South 99 who have made attempts to run away. An alert such as an immigration bulletin lookout has been issued at the airports.

Meanwhile, Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda issued directives to the municipal mayors within the province aimed at curtailing the proliferation of POGOs. 

Pineda mandated all local chief executives to rigorously screen all business permit applicants, particularly business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and any internet gaming licensees (IGL) in their towns to ensure strict compliance with all legal requirements. Concurrently, barangay captains were also instructed to conduct awareness campaigns within their communities and shed light on the risks posed by illegal POGOs and other organized crime groups.

Pineda also ordered provincial police chief Colonel Jay Dimaandal to enhance the collaboration between law enforcement and local governments, and promptly report suspicious activities linked to illegal operations including kidnapping, online scams, illegal gambling, and human trafficking. – Rappler.com

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