Kidnapping in Pogo industry still ‘unabated,’ says Gatchalian
MANILA, Philippines — Kidnappings related to Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) remain “unabated” even as authorities promised that criminalities tied to the industry have already been addressed, according to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
Citing the report of the Senate committee on ways and means, panel chair Gatchalian said Tuesday that assurances given by the police had not curbed the incidence of Pogo-related kidnapping.
The committee had been leading a series of hearings to weigh the socioeconomic impact of banning Pogos in the country in view of the spate of reported crimes involving the industry.
Gatchalian took note of a letter dated March 9 sent to him by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to report another kidnapping purportedly involving a licensed Pogo.
The letter, according to him, revealed that the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Philippines sought the assistance of the NBI in February to rescue a male Chinese national, identified as Co Xialong, who is allegedly being “illegally detained” by Brickhartz Technology Inc. at ShuangMa Industrial Park in Cavite.
Gatchalian said the NBI is still working on securing possible leads for the rescue of the victim.
This, the legislator noted, is a cause for alarm as he noted that the incident shows how some Pogos continue to engage in outlawed activities.
“Also, this speaks volumes of the industry’s wanton disregard and mockery of our laws on peace and order,” he said.
Gatchalian also pointed out that Brickhartz Technology was among the erring Pogo firms mentioned by Senator Grace Poe during her privilege speech in December last year.
Gatchalian then cited another letter dated March 17 from Central Luzon police chief Brig. Gen. Jose Hidalgo Jr, who recounted a raid conducted by the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group within the premises of now-shut down Pogo company Lucky South 99 in Pampanga last September.
The police operation led to the rescue of 43 Chinese nationals, as well as the arrest of a human resource manager of Lucky South 99, Chen Yi Ben, who is now facing a criminal case along with two other Chinese nationals–Qi Xi Chen and Hao Nan–that remain at-large.
“Hindi pa rin tumitigil ang ganitong mga krimen na kinasasangkutan ng mga Pogo. Malinaw na kinakasangkapan lang nila ang operasyon nila sa bansa para maisakatuparan ang mga iligal nilang aktibidad,” Gatchalian lamented.
(Crimes involving Pogos have not yet stopped. It’s clear that they are using their operations in the country to bring life to their illegal activities.)
Even with these reported Pogo-related crimes, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporations in January said that it had not monitored illegal activities concerning the offshore gaming industry for more than three months.
The state gaming firm said this was a result of an inter-agency crackdown on illicit gaming operations in the country. — with reports from Mae Anne Bilolo, trainee