Pogos: A dark cover for human trafficking, other scams – Gatchalian
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday condemned syndicates for using Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogos) to conceal and enable their criminal activities.
During a Kapihan sa Senado forum, Gatchalian said many firms are now masquerading as “legitimate” Pogo hubs and misusing the licenses granted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).
“Nagagamit ang ‘legitimate’ Pogos – o may mga lisensya sa Pagcor – na front ng criminal syndicates na nag o-operate dito. Ang ibig sabihin ay kumukuha sila ng lisensya [for] Pogo, pero sa likod naman ang mga operators nila ay criminal syndicates, mga sindikato na involved sa human trafficking at involved sa scam,” said Gatchalian.
(‘Legitimate’ Pogos – or those with Pagcor licenses – are used as fronts by criminal syndicates that operate here. That means that they are getting a license for Pogo, but behind the scenes, their operators are criminal syndicates or syndicates involved in human trafficking and involved in scams.)
“Ang nakakatakot kasi dito sa nakita kong trend ay involved na ang mga kababayan natin,” he added.
(What’s scary about the trend is that our countrymen are now involved.)
Citing the incident that transpired in Las Piñas in late June, Gatchalian stressed that more than 1,500 Filipinos have been scammed, adding that most of them are from far-flung provinces who were promised jobs but were taken to Las Piñas only to be “locked up.”
“[T]hat is considered human trafficking,” the lawmaker pointed out.
This, however, is not the first time that Gatchalian denounced the continued operations of these firms. On June 27, he pointed out that the Philippines “has become a hotbed of human trafficking” because Pogos were given a “free license to engage in criminal activities.”
During the forum, he pointed out that Pogos have increasingly become a “gateway” for criminal organizations to operate unimpeded within the Philippines.
“Ang pinaka-control kasi natin ay yung Alien Employment Permit (AEP) pero hindi naman nasasala mabuti ng Department of Labor and Employment at ng Pagcor ang AEP. Ibig sabihin, ang mga nag apply, [halimbawa, from] China – [mag a-apply] sila sa embassy natin ng visa at sasabihin nila mag ta-trabaho sila sa Pogo [kaya] bibigyan sila ng AEP. Pero hindi naman nakikita kung itong mga ito ay fugitives,” said Gatchalian.
(The only control we have is the AEP but DOLE and Pagcor cannot properly screen this. That means that those who applied, for example, from China – will apply at our embassy for a visa, and if they say that they will work at a Pogo, they will be given an AEP. But we cannot determine and see if these individuals are fugitives.)
According to the senator, this proves that the country is lacking in screening individuals who are allowed to enter and work in the Philippines.
“Ito ay patunay na ang Pogo ay walang kabutihan na nadadala sa bansa, bagkus krimen at problema lang ang dinadala sa atin. Noong pag analyze namin ay hindi naman malaki — hindi tayo mawawalan ng malaking kita kung sila ay nawala. Ang mangyayari kapag nawala sila ay katahimikan,” said Gatchalian.
(This proves that Pogos do not bring any good to the country, but only crime and problems. Based on our analysis, we found out that we wouldn’t lose a lot of revenue if these were banned. The only thing that will happen when they are gone is that we will have silence.)
In April 2023, Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, submitted to the Palace a chairman’s report seeking to ban the operations of Pogos across the archipelago permanently.