Pasay police chief, 26 other cops sacked over raided Pogo
The chief of the Pasay City police and 26 other officers have been relieved of their posts following the discovery of an alleged sex den and other signs of human trafficking in a building housing an online gaming hub not far from their station.
The building, where a Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) employed mostly Chinese nationals, was also found to have a “torture chamber,” according to agents of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) who raided the place on Oct. 27.
Col. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson for the Philippine National Police, said Pasay police chief Police Col. Froilan Uy and Substation 1 commander Police Capt. Criz Antonio Cataluña were “being investigated for possible neglect of duty, because it happened that this Pogo establishment has been around for a long time.’’
“(H)ow come they did not detect the presence of illegal activities in the area?” Fajardo said at a press briefing at Camp Crame on Friday.
Police Brig. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr., chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, approved the relief of Uy, Cataluña and the other officers.
Fajardo said the investigation would look into the command responsibility of Uy and Cataluña and the failure of the other policemen to detect criminal activities in the six-story building at the corner of F.B. Harrison and Williams Streets—about two blocks or some 500 meters away from Pasay City Hall and the Pasay police station.
“We must remember that the PNP has a one-strike policy for erring commanders. If this Pogo has existed for a long time and illegal activities have been happening there within their knowledge and they did nothing, then they will be charged with neglect of duty,” Fajardo said.Police Col. Mario Mayanes was designated officer in charge of the Pasay police, while Police Maj. Christel Carlo Villanueva was named Cataluña’s replacement.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, who also chairs the National Police Commission, recommended to PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. the relief of the Pasay officers two days after the raid.
“It is highly improbable to think that an entire six-story building essentially dedicated to criminal activity … could somehow escape the notice of the local substation commander,” Abalos told Acorda in a letter dated Oct. 29.
The building was in a compound belonging to Xushen Technology Corp. and Freego Computer Gaming OPC., whose Pogo licenses had already been revoked by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
The two companies, however, had obtained a temporary internet gaming license under Smart Web Technology Corp., an entity registered with Pasay City’s business permit office.
The Oct. 27 raid was the first law enforcement operation to be directed at an internet gaming licensee, according to Gilbert Cruz, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, one of the member agencies of Iacat.
The raid was carried out on a search warrant issued by Judge Maricris Pahate-Felix of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 35.
A total of 731 suspected victims of human trafficking, mostly Chinese and Filipinos, were rescued. Police said they were made to work not just in a sex trafficking operation but also in a cyberscam that lures potential victims into investing in cryptocurrency.
During the raid, seven Filipino women were found in a viewing room—known colloquially as an “aquarium’’—on the second floor.
The victims said they were recruited through Facebook as “encoders” but were forced to become sex workers.
Two male Chinese workers said they were kept in the building against their will, showing torture marks on their bodies.
One of them said he was kidnapped by a group from another Pogo in May and was “sold” for P500,000. The other said he had been held inside the building for more than a year and made to work 15 hours a day.
Authorities said they also found what they described as a “torture chamber” within the building based on some objects they saw, such as heavy-duty tasers, airsoft guns, baseball bats, a wooden club and several handcuffs attached to a metal bar.
“They torture those [who] failed to pay their debts, especially workers who hired women and used the prostitution rooms, as well as those [who] ran afoul of them,” Cruz said. INQ