Pampanga Pogo linked to scams, trafficking; 186 rescued in raid

Pampanga Pogo linked to scams, trafficking; 186 rescued in raid

/ 05:38 AM June 06, 2024

Pampanga Pogo linked to scams, trafficking; 186 rescued in raid

‘ROGUE’ COMPANY Wednesday’s raid not only tried to dismantle an alleged human trafficking operation but also revealed the vastness of the private property where the questionable online gaming hub had thrived. —Photos by Jun A. Malig

PORAC, PAMPANGA, Philippines — A total of 186 foreign and Filipino workers were rescued on Wednesday from another sprawling Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) complex, where authorities conducted a raid following reports it was being used for human trafficking, with some of the foreign employees allegedly tortured or sold for sex.

The operation mounted by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) was the second high-profile Pogo raid in Central Luzon this year.


A crackdown in March on another major gaming hub in neighboring Tarlac province has since put a town mayor in the hot seat over her alleged links to the business. Questions about her background have also fanned suspicions that she is a Chinese spy.


READ: PAOCC links Pogos to various crimes

PAOCC spokesperson Winston Casio said the commission’s agents and personnel from various police units served a search warrant on Lucky South 99, the same Pogo company that was raided and shut down on Sept. 17, 2022.

Carried out on a warrant issued by Judge Maria Belinda Rama of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14, Wednesday’s operation scoured the complex inside the vast Royal Garden Estate located at the boundary between Porac and Angeles City.

According to Casio, Lucky South 99 was operating in Porac without a permit from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

But a Pagcor list seen by the Inquirer showed that as of Aug. 8, 2023, Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc. was among the 32 licensed offshore gaming companies in the country. The list was updated almost a year after the Pogo firm was raided and closed down.

The searched premises of Lucky South 99 are inside a 5.8-hectare complex with a total of 46 buildings,some of them visible in this photo.

The searched premises of Lucky South 99 are inside a 5.8-hectare complex with a total of 46 buildings, some of them visible in this photo.

Sexually trafficked

“The warrant was issued based on a complaint that human trafficking is happening inside the said rogue Pogo. The warrant is for violations of Republic Act No. 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, specifically sexual and labor trafficking,” Casio told reporters in a Viber message.


The raiding team also included members of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, other PNP units and the Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which is under the supervision of PAOCC.

“The raid stemmed from a report received from confidential informants that a female foreign national is being sexually trafficked in the area and that male foreign nationals are being tortured,” Casio said.

Of the 157 foreign nationals accounted for in the raid, 126 were Chinese, 23 were Vietnamese, four were Malaysians, four were Burmese, and one was Korean. There were also 29 Filipino workers.

“They are currently being held for questioning over the alleged scam operations in Sto. Cristo, Porac, Pampanga,” Casio said.Calls for ban

PAOCC described Lucky South 99 as the biggest business facility in Pampanga, with a total of 46 buildings, including villas and other structures, as well as a golf course.

The complex was placed under heavy guard by the PNP Special Action Force during the search.

The raid came amid growing calls, especially from some lawmakers, to kick out Pogos from the country after they boomed during the Duterte administration.

Critics have long argued that their economic benefits in terms of job creation, property sector earnings and revenues for the government are far outweighed by their social cost, with Pogos repeatedly being linked to crime syndicates engaged in human trafficking, kidnapping, robbery-extortion, money laundering, online scams, and lately, espionage.

Among the Pogo hubs recently shuttered was the one operated by Zun Yuan Technology in Bamban, Tarlac.

The March 13 operation was launched also by the PAOCC after one of the Zun Yuan employees, a Vietnamese national, escaped from the 10-hectare Baofu compound hosting the Pogo firm and sought help from authorities.

A total of 868 Pogo workers—371 Filipinos, 427 Chinese, 57 Vietnamese, eight Malaysians, three Taiwanese, two Indonesians and two Rwandans—were then rescued from Zun Yuan.

The recovery of several papers in the administrative office of Zun Yuan dragged Bamban Mayor Alice Guo into the picture.

Guo was later summoned to a Senate inquiry for her alleged involvement in the Pogo firm. For giving answers that the lawmakers found evasive and inconsistent, particularly about her youth and family relations, questions were raised about her citizenship and eligibility to hold public office.

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On Monday, Guo and two other Bamban municipal officials were placed on preventive suspension for six months by the Office of the Ombudsman for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to service in connection with the issuance of a permit by the local government to Zun Yuan. ­—with a report from Frances Mangosing


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