Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR says it will work with key government agencies to intensify its efforts against “illegal POGO-related crimes” following reports of an increase in kidnappings linked to online gaming operators.
Having met with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday, PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said the inter-agency collaboration is a response to the instruction of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr, who has expressed concern over the rise in crime numbers.
“The President said [this is] because the image of the country and of this administration is being tarnished by these illegal incidents,” Tengco explained.
His comments follow reports this week that the PNP had rescued 43 Chinese nationals said to be enslaved under human trafficking conditions from a licensed POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator) called Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc in Angeles City.
Lucky South 99 is one of only two licensed POGOs in Angeles City, with authorities later arresting the company’s 33-year-old human resources manager, Chen Yi Bien – a resident of the Clark Freeport Zone.
Another two workers were recused last month from a POGO in Mabalacat.
Prior to this week there had already been a total of 15 POGO-related kidnapping cases in 2022, up from 12 through all of last year, suggesting the resumption of normal business activities post-COVID has led to an increase in such crimes.
“The information we received is that these alarming incidents of kidnapping came from the ranks of illegal operators,” Tengco said.
“While it will be a challenge to all participating agencies, the good thing is that we are receiving information as to where these illegal operations are located. With the help of everybody, we will be able to zero-in immediately.”
However, he also warned that failure to get on top of the issue could see the POGO industry shut down completely.
“If these kidnapping incidents and other illegal activities persist, it is clear that not only will we cancel the licenses of POGO operators, but the entire industry may be affected by whatever decision will emanate from the national government. So let us help each other solve these issues the soonest,” Tengco said.