POGO shut down after rescue of 43 Chinese
MANILA, Philippines — Authorities have closed down a Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) in Angeles City, Pampanga, following the rescue of 43 Chinese nationals who claimed they were abducted and just forced to work there.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Saturday afternoon led a team that posted the closure notice at the entrance to the building used by Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc. along Fil-Am Friendship Highway.
According to Abalos, the POGO company does not have a license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). However, a check made by the Inquirer showed that Lucky South 99 was one of the 35 POGOs approved by Pagcor, based on a list posted on its website on Sept. 1 this year.
About 40 Chinese nationals in their 20s to 30s were still working at the Lucky South office when Abalos, along with personnel from the Philippine National Police, Pagcor, and Bureau of Immigration (BI), served the closure order on a lawyer representing the company.
Through an interpreter, Abalos assured the Chinese workers of government assistance. “We are here to protect you. We are here to make sure that no one among you is abused or being victimized,” he said.
The Chinese workers said they had been able to contact their families in China but that some of them were no longer in possession of their passports.
They were set to be placed in BI custody for a validation of their immigration status — whether they entered the country using tourist or work visas.
It was at Lucky South 99 where agents of the PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) rescued Wu Jia and 42 other Chinese nationals on Tuesday, after learning from Wu’s family that she was being held captive since Monday night by someone demanding a P1-million ransom.
Arrested during the raid was Chen Yi Bien, alias Ayi, the Chinese human resources manager of Lucky South 99.
Speaking to reporters after the rescue, Abalos said follow-up operations would be conducted to look for other Chinese nationals “similarly enslaved under human trafficking conditions.”
He said the investigation would also check if other officers of the Pogo company were working for a human trafficking syndicate targeting Chinese nationals
He commended the PNP-AKG for solving the Wu kidnapping case less than 12 hours after being alerted.
The PNP said it had recorded 15 “POGO-related kidnappings” so far this year, already exceeding last year’s total of 12.
Citing intelligence reports, the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on Friday said “more than five groups” may be behind the recent spate of abductions.
Abalos on Saturday said he had spoken with the Chinese Embassy to seek help on the matter.
The Chinese government, he said, will initially provide a record of its citizens currently working in POGOs to help the Philippine side check for missing Chinese nationals.
POGO’s perils: 43 foreign workers rescued in raid
Fear of punishment keeps Pogo workers from reporting abductions – group
Time to make POGO illegal amid rise in crimes linked to it – Pimentel
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