Senate looking into link of POGOs to hacking of gov’t websites

Joann Manabat

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Senate looking into link of POGOs to hacking of gov’t websites

Senator Risa Hontiveros, committee chair on women, children, family relations, and gender equality presents updates on the scam hubs raided by the authorities during a joint committee hearing on Tuesday, May 7.

Screenshot from Senate of the Philippines Youtube channel

A Senate hearing says if Philippine offshore gaming operators are involved in surveillance and hacking of government websites, then they are threats to national security

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros, on Tuesday, May 7, said during a joint Senate committee hearing she was concerned by reports that surveillance activities and even the hacking of government websites were traceable to the raided Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) firms in Bamban, Tarlac.

The committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality led the joint hearing with committees on migrant workers, and public order and dangerous drugs following the developments of the investigation and findings from the raid of Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated, Hong Sheng Gaming Technology Incorporated, and Baofu Corporation.

Hongsheng was raided by law enforcers in February 2023 in the Baofu compound in Bamban. Its changed its name to Zun Yuan three months later, and it was again raided by an inter-agency government team in March 2024. 

“I was very disturbed to hear that there is persuasive information from the intelligence community stating that this Bamban complex is being used for surveillance activities. And among the reported high profile cases of hacking of our own government websites are traceable in this complex,” Hontiveros said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“Our POGOs are now being used to spy on us? These POGOs will just grow and grow. And before we know it, we will be faced with a threat to our national security like nothing we have seen before,” she said.

In a phone interview, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) spokesperson Winston Casio told Rappler they have received information that overseas cases of cyber fraud and cyber scam were traceable to the Philippines.

“This is very serious. The presence of so many illegal online gaming workers from mainland China poses very serious threats to the Philippines. We were able to discover fake documents, allegations of fraud, and hacking that are linked to the POGOs. So this is very serious.” Casio said.

“Kaya importante sa atin ngayon kung ano ang kalalabasan ng digital forensic examination nung lahat ng computers doon to be able to validate yung initial report na yun,” he said.

(That’s why these results are important. The digital forensic examination of all the computers there to be able to validate that initial report.)

Casio said digital forensic examinations of the computers, cellphones and other related gadgets confiscated from the Bamban POGO complex would reveal if indeed surveillance and hacking of government websites were being done in the area. He said the complaints which said the Philippines was a cyber fraud hub came from other countries such as Singapore, Australia, and the United States. 

Senators Hontiveros and Sherwin Gatchalian conducted an ocular inspection in April of the Baofu compound where authorities uncovered the illegal activities and scam operations of Zun Yuan. Both senators said that the country has become among the fastest growing scam hotspots in the world. –Rappler.com

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