THE government is dead serious about getting rid of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) following the Pasay City raid which unveiled what Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla referred to as a center for vices.
“Kasi hindi talaga siya POGO. It’s more of a vice center. Center for vice. And seemingly wala naman talagang POGO operation. Doon sa baba looks like a scam operation talaga,” Remulla said.
“Kasi ang kasabay niyan puro bisyo eh. Alak, sex toys, aquarium, or rooms for the purpose. Makita mo talaga na it is 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,” he added.
The DOJ chief was referring to the Pasay City-based POGO hub over reports of hosting illegal activities that included sex trafficking, love scam and fraudulent crypto deals.
According to Remulla, while these POGO firms are sanctioned by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to operate in the Philippines, the discovery of the operatives yielded more than the evils that many thought it catered to.
Lawmen also discovered a room containing various torture devices such as heavy-duty tasers, airsoft guns, baseball bats, and a wooden club. There were also several handcuffs attached to a wall-mounted metal bar.
POGOs Must Go
During an interview with reporters, Remulla said that kicking out POGO firms in the country is “always on the horizon.”
He however admitted that the DOJ will have to wait until their permits finally come to an end.
“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
Sought to elaborate, Remulla said that they have already sought a dialogue with PAGCOR – “I want to have a dialogue with PAGCOR again about the status of these POGO permits being given and existing permits. Para maging malinaw sa atin what we’re up against,” he further averred.
Previously, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian in his capacity as chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, filed a resolution seeking an inquiry on the POGO hub.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos has ordered an investigation on the Pasay City's police chief and the police officers manning a nearby substation, saying it was impossible that the cops were unaware of what was going on in their area of responsibility.
Top Cop Axed
Pasay City police chief Col. Froilan Uy and 27 other police officers under him were relieved from their posts by the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS).
According to IAS inspector general Alfegar Triambulo, a special investigation task force has already commenced an in-depth probe of the allegations of human trafficking and other illegal activities that went undetected by the Pasay police, led by Uy, and officers of the city police substation 1, located near the POGO hub.
“Negligence has no place in effective law enforcement,” an obviously pissed off Triambulo said in a statement.
PNP public information office chief Col Jean Fajardo said Uy and the substation commander were relieved based on the principle of command responsibility while the 26 others “will be checked if there is neglect of duty.”
Fajardo said the PNP has a one-strike policy that means that if an incident occurs within an officer’s knowledge, and they fail to act, they can be charged with neglect of duty.
The decision to relieve the officers, Fajardo said, came in the wake of concerns regarding the long-standing presence of POGOs in Pasay and their alleged illegal activities.
New Top Cop
Col. Mario Mayames has been designated to replace Uy but only as officer-in-charge of Pasay’s police force as the pre-charge investigation proceeds.
Fajardo said that legal action has been initiated against the people suspected of running the POGO hub, among them five Chinese and a Filipino. They are being held at the Camp Crame custodial facility.
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