Parañaque Pogo found with ‘spa’; 2 Chinese men arrested
An inspection of a building housing a Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) in Parañaque City led to the discovery of a suspected prostitution den and the arrest of two Chinese nationals for alleged human trafficking on Tuesday night.
The findings were similar to that of the Oct. 27 raid in neighboring Pasay City where a Pogo hub was also found complete with bedrooms, a viewing room for selecting sex workers and what authorities described as a “torture chamber.”
Two Chinese males, identified at press time only as Han and Sun, were arrested in a joint operation conducted by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), the Southern Police District-Mobile Force Battalion (SPD-MFB) and the Parañaque police.
According to Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz, the PAOCC executive director, they just came to inspect the Pogo company around 9 p.m. at Sinocan Corporate Center in Aseana Business Park, Barangay Tambo, when they discovered several “numbered rooms” with beds designed for massage parlors or spas.
On the seventh floor of the 15-story building, which was supposed to be a parking area, they found the Pogo employees working in front of their computers.
The name of the Pogo establishment was withheld in the report released by the SPD on Wednesday.
The SPD said 16 Filipino women were “rescued” and listed as victims of human trafficking, though they maintained they were only offering massage services at the place.
While the Pogo company had a license to operate, Cruz said it failed to declare full information about its personnel. Based on its records with Pagcor, it should have only around 900 employees but authorities on Tuesday night counted at least 2,000.
The foreign employees also could not present documents showing they could work in a Pogo, he added.
“(They) said they were not in possession of their passports because these were being kept by their bosses … a common practice in human trafficking since the victims could not leave without their passports,” Cruz said in an interview on GMA News.The PAOCC would recommend to Pagcor the closure of the Pogo firm over its “numerous” violations.
The arrested suspects face charges for human trafficking, said SPD director Police Brig. Gen. Mark Pespes.
The operation in Parañaque happened barely a week after the Oct. 27 raid on a building used by Xusheng Technology Corp. and Freego Computer Gaming OPC., two companies whose Pogo licenses had already been revoked by Pagcor but still managed to get a temporary internet gaming license (IGL) under another entity, Smart Web Technology Corp., registered with the Pasay City business licensing office.
Days after the operation, the Philippine National Police relieved 27 police officers, including the Pasay police chief, of their posts for alleged neglect of duty, citing the proximity of their station to the raided establishment.
Pasay Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano ordered the Pogo building closed on Oct. 31.
DOJ to check status
Rubiano also canceled the local government’s letters of no objection (Lonos) that earlier allowed a total of 26 Pogo and related service providers to operate in the city, pending an inspection clearing them of any illegal activity.
Lonos are among the requirements of Pagcor for Pogos to operate in a certain local government unit.In the wake of the two recent operations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will seek a meeting with Pagcor regarding the Pogos still in operation in the country, according to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.
“I want to have a dialogue with Pagcor again about the status of these Pogo permits being given so it would be clear for us what we’re up against, how many are really legal and how many are really illegal,” Remulla told reporters.
Asked about the possibility of finally barring Pogo operations in the country, he said it’s “always on the horizon.”
“As long as Pagcor has legal permits existing, we have to honor it. But we will arrive at that stage where we will have to decide,” he added.
Referring to the Pasay-based Pogo that was raided on Oct. 27, Remulla described the place as “not really a Pogo (but) more of a vice center, center for vice.”
“And seemingly there was really no Pogo operation. What we saw really looks like a scam operation,” he said. “These were all related vices—alcohol, sex toys, aquarium (viewing room), or rooms for that purpose. You can clearly see that it’s meant to conduct illegal activities, immoral illegal activities, and it’s actually shocking that they were doing this on such a scale for the longest time.”