Kidnappings related to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) remain unabated despite assurances made by police authorities that crimes involving POGOs have been addressed, Senator Win Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian made the revelation in the Chairman’s Report by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means following a series of public hearings conducted by the Senate body to determine the socio-economic impact of allowing POGO operations in the country. Gatchalian serves as chairman of the committee.
Citing a letter dated March 9, 2023, and addressed to him, Gatchalian said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has confirmed a kidnapping incident involving a licensed POGO service provider in the country.
“Verification conducted revealed that on 16 February 2023, Consul Cao Kaiwen of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Philippines requested the assistance of the NBI in rescuing a male Chinese national (named) Cao Xialong, who is allegedly being illegally detained at Brickhartz Technology Inc., Shuangma Park,” the letter, signed by NBI Director Atty. Medardo de Lemos, stated. The NBI is currently working to gather possible leads to rescue the victim.
“This is alarming as it shows some POGOs continue to engage themselves in illegal activities. Also, this speaks volumes of the industry’s wanton disregard and mockery of our laws on peace and order,” Gatchalian said. He noted that Brickhartz is the same POGO service provider implicated in a separate kidnapping and human trafficking case cited by Senator Grace Poe in a privilege speech in December last year.
A separate letter dated March 17, 2023 from Region 3 Director Police Brigadier General Jose Hidalgo Jr. also revealed that the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) led an entrapment operation at the premises of POGO operator Lucky South 99 in Angeles City, Pampanga last September 14, 2022. The said operation led to the rescue of Wu Jia Ming, a Chinese national and 42 other foreign nationals.
Arrested in this operation was Chen Yi Ben, also a Chinese national and human resource staff of Lucky South 99. As a result, a criminal case was also filed against Chen Yi Ben and two other Chinese nationals still at large, Qi Xi Chen and Hao Nan.
“Hindi pa rin tumitigil ang ganitong mga krimen na kinasasangkutan ng mga POGO. Malinaw na kinakasangkapan lang nila ang operasyon nila sa bansa para maisakatuparan ang mga iligal nilang aktibidad,” Gatchalian stressed.
The inquiry conducted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to weigh in on the socio-economic benefits of allowing POGO operators in the country followed numerous reports of various criminalities attributed to the industry.
Based on a report submitted by the PNP, kidnap-for-ransom incidents are the most common crimes associated with the POGO industry, with 30 cases recorded from 2017 to 2022. Other crimes attributed to the industry include human trafficking, and violations of the Access Devices Regulation Act, among others.