Pogo raid yields ‘PLA uniforms’; probably just props, says military
Recovered from Pampanga crackdown

Pogo raid yields ‘PLA uniforms’; probably just props, says military

Pogo raid yields ‘PLA uniforms’; probably just props, says military

FAKE OR NOT, STILL ALARMING Authorities show some of the  military uniforms and pins found in the Pogo complex in Porac, Pampanga, raided by a team led by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on complaints of human trafficking. —photo from PAOCC

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers on Tuesday expressed alarm over the reported discovery of alleged Chinese military uniforms during the June 4 raid of an illegal Philippine offshore gaming operator (Pogo) complex in Pampanga province, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the supposed uniforms were probably “used as props” in the illicit online transactions at the Pogo hub in Porac town.

On Monday, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said authorities found alleged Chinese military uniforms associated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force during the raid of the 5.8-hectare Pogo complex of Lucky South 99 that was prompted by complaints of human trafficking.

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However, it said this would still be subject to validation by Chinese authorities.

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

Not yet a threat

“The limited number of PLA uniforms found suggests they are more indicative of use in deceptive activities rather than any preparation for an invasion,” Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the AFP spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We do not want to cause unnecessary panic,” she added.

READ: Pampanga police station chief sacked after illegal Pogo raid

Padilla said the AFP was cooperating with the PAOCC to probe the incident.

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At a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Tuesday, Padilla acknowledged that the presence of Pogo hubs near military camps was part of the “realities that we are facing.”

“These are contemporary challenges so we are really looking at [their] implications on national security. The [AFP] will have the necessary contingency measures for all these things,” she noted.

In the same press briefing, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said Pogos were not yet considered a threat to national security.

“We haven’t yet reached that point. The moment we get there, there will be appropriate announcements to be made,” Trinidad said.

He issued the comment after Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on the National Security Council (NSC) to recommend to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that Pogos be considered a national threat.

“What is happening is there is an increase in the monitored unusual incidents perpetuated by the presence of Chinese nationals, without saying yet these are risks to national security,” Trinidad noted.

“The moment they violate, not only the Pogos at the moment, if any establishment violates the rules and regulations of the land, there will be appropriate sanctions that the government may impose upon them,” he added.

RAID Members of a raiding team from various government offices, led by PAOCC, swoop down on the Pogo hub located inside a sprawling fenced complex in Porac town, Pampanga on June 4 and June 5 where at least 180 Filipino and foreign workers were rescued. —Jun A. Malig

Alarming development

Still, Hontiveros said the seizure of the suspected uniforms of China’s PLA confirmed the information gathered by state intelligence agencies that Pogos were connected with “foreign intelligence assets.”

“The implications of these uniforms should send chills down our [spines],” Hontiveros told reporters in a Viber message.

“Someone is hell-bent on compromising our sovereignty,” she said. “It is so clear that every Pogo has exploited our economic vulnerabilities and that Pogos have now evolved into a breeding ground for crime and a national security threat.”

In a statement, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the discovery of the alleged PLA camouflage uniforms was “clear evidence that Pogos are a national security threat.”

“It has opened the doors not only to criminal syndicates, but also to those who want to destabilize and infiltrate our government and political institutions,” said Gatchalian.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. agreed that the government should immediately take the appropriate actions as the seizure of the alleged PLA uniforms was alarming.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, the chair of the Senate committee on national defense, said the incident showed that the “extent of scams perpetrated by these unscrupulous individuals is beyond comprehension.”

“Our authorities should not take this lightly, whether the seized uniforms are fake or not,” Estrada said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe said the continued operations of Pogos in the country had “become appalling and costly for Filipinos.”

For Sen. Lito Lapid, a native of Porac town, the ongoing Senate investigation should help unmask the owners of the property that Lucky South 99 had converted into a sprawling online gaming facility engaged in various forms of cybercrimes.

“The crimes uncovered in the Pogo raids in Tarlac and Pampanga not only deserve condemnation, but also require swift action from the government to hold accountable those behind the criminal activities,” Lapid said.

Police chief relieved

Meanwhile, the Pampanga Police Provincial Office (PPO) director was relieved from his post pending an ongoing investigation into the raided Pogo hub in Porac.

Pampanga PPO chief Col. Levi Hope Basilio was removed from his post on Monday to pave the way for an investigation, Central Luzon police director Brig. Gen. Jose Hidalgo Jr. said on Tuesday.

Police Lt. Col. Maylanie Castillo, the deputy provincial director for administration, will serve as officer in charge in the meantime.

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The police chief of Porac, Lt. Col. Palmyra Guardaya, was relieved from her post last week after the raid to give way to the investigation to determine whether there was negligence on her side.

A total of 186 foreign and Filipino workers were rescued last week from the Lucky South 99, a sprawling Pogo complex in Porac, where authorities conducted a raid following reports of human trafficking, with some of the foreign employees allegedly tortured or sold for sex. —with a report from Frances Mangosing

TAGS: ban POGOs, POGOs

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