Espinoza: Are there Pogos in Cebu?

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SunStar Espinoza
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The uncovering of the illegal operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) in Tarlac and Pampanga after it was raided by elements of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) brings me to the question, are there Pogos operating somewhere in Cebu or in any of the cities here?

Early in the term of former President Digong Duterte, a friend who was referred by another friend approached me if I could assist their client get a letter of no objection in one of the cities here as their client intended to operate a Pogo saying that it already obtained the authority to operate from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

However, the proposal for me to represent my friend’s client who wanted to offer online gambling services to markets outside the Philippines did not materialize as they did not return to me. Perhaps, it was fate that I would not be involved in such an endeavor, considering it has turned out to be the source of criminal activities.

Then President Duterte allowed Pogos as a means of getting foreign investments. However, lately, the Chinese Embassy wants the Pogos closed, dubbing them as “social ills.” Allegations of torture, human trafficking and other illicit activities were attributed to Pogo operations.

No malice intended, but on many occasions here in Cebu, I have seen Chinese men and women in their 30s or 40s at the malls or the supermarkets. I thought they were tourists. But with the government’s discovery of the huge Pogo operations in Pampanga and Tarlac, I have second thoughts about who these young Chinese nationals really are.

About a month ago, I saw two male Chinese in their 30s eating at a restaurant. They were speaking Chinese the whole time. I did not hear them utter a single word in Bisaya or Tagalog during their conversation with their host.

Are our local police or the PAOCC investigating if there are Pogos in Cebu operating illicitly, or with the authority from Pagcor? Perhaps, it is time for the police to check from Pagcor if it has authorized the operation of Pogos here in Cebu.

While there have been no reports here in Cebu of human trafficking, kidnapping, prostitution, torture, or other form of criminal activities attributed to Chinese nationals connected with Pogo, it’s worth it for the police or PAOCC to verify.

The PAOCC has uncovered Pogo operations on the 10-hectare Baofu compound in Bamban, Tarlac. Its mayor, Alice Guo, is now the subject of a Senate inquiry. They are looking into her true citizenship and her possible participation in the operation of Pogo in the town.

A Pogo operator much bigger than the one in Bamban was also discovered in an expansive 10-hectare property known as the Thai Royal Court in Porac, Pampanga. It was operated by Lucky South 99.

With the influx of Chinese nationals into the country, the Senate leadership will conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the government’s procedures in granting special visas and the practice of late live birth registration, which is the case of Mayor Guo. The Senate leadership expressed fears that these practices may have been abused by aliens.

House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, filed House Resolution 1771 for a congressional inquiry into the granting of special visas like retirement visa and investor’s visa. The data from the Bureau of Immigration showed that about 78,000 special visas were issued, and 30,000 of these were given to Chinese nationals.

According to Tulfo, those given retirement visas were between the ages of 35 and 50, and they were not retired. Tulfo said those granted with investor’s visa have not invested millions into the country. Instead, they end up working at Pogos.

So why did our country end up with Pogos?

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