Palace’s anti-crime body urges mayors to help in crackdown vs illegal POGOs

Jairo Bolledo

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Palace’s anti-crime body urges mayors to help in crackdown vs illegal POGOs

DORMITORY. The dormitory area of the raided POGO in Porac, Pampanga.

Joann Manabat/Rappler

The PAOCC believes mayors can help the national government locate scam farms. 'It's undeniable, they are all sticking out like sore thumbs,' its spokesperson says.

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) urged local chief executives to help in the crackdown against illegal Philippine offshore and gaming operators (POGO).

“We would like to call on all local chief executives, please help us in the fight against scam farms,” PAOCC spokesperson Winston Casio said in an interview with ANC on Thursday, June 13.

“[The Department of the Interior and Local Government needs] to call the attention of all local chief executives [who can help identify] where these scam farms are located. Be they’re illegal or hiding behind legality or what. It’s undeniable, they are all sticking out like sore thumbs,” Casio added in a mix of English and Filipino.

For Casio, some local government units’ lackluster performance in the crackdown against illegal POGOs – which he refers to as scam farms – doesn’t necessarily mean that they are benefiting from the industry.

“At the very least, it’s incompetence,” the PAOCC official added.

Scam farms are on the spotlight as the government beefs up its operations against such illegal businesses.

Most recently, the PAOCC caught 157 foreigners, mostly Chinese nationals, leaving the premises of a POGO hub in Porac, Pampanga. The authorities were in the area to conduct a “welfare check.”

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The PAOCC, along with the Philippine National Police, served a search warrant against officers and employees of Lucky South 99 over a human trafficking complaint. However, when the authorities reached the site, they found out that their warrant had no power. There was a possible leakage, authorities said, because there were no people when the authorities arrived.

In February 2023, authorities also raided Hongsheng Gaming Technology Incorporated, reigniting scrutiny of POGOs.

Bamban Mayor Alice Guo was later implicated in the controversy due to her alleged ties with the said illegal POGO hub.

What mayors can do

Local chief executives’ powers are not to be belittled, as mayors have the prerogative to “exercise general supervision and control over all programs, projects, services, and activities of the municipal government,” among others, under the Local Government Code of 1991.

Mayor Guo – whose alleged POGO involvement and shady background alarmed lawmakers – was put under a microscope because of that kind of power.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros even asked whether Guo, who claimed she couldn’t remember basic details about her life, was an “asset” planted by China to infiltrate local politics.

The Ombudsman, acting on the recommendation of the DILG, later ordered the suspension of Guo and two other municipal officers until the probe against them is completed. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.