Pampanga police chief sacked over Porac Pogo raid

Central Luzon map.
Central Luzon map. (SunStar photo)

PAMPANGA provincial police chief Colonel Levi Hope Basilio was relieved from post following the discovery of an illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (Pogo) in a 10-hectare property in Porac town.

Police Regional Office (PRO)-Central Luzon Director Brigadier General Jose Hidalgo said Basilio’s relief, which was effective on Monday, June 10, is necessary to pave the way for a fair and impartial investigation in relation to the Pogo raid.

On June 4, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives, together with the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), raided the Lucky South 99 by virtue of a search warrant.

At least 186 foreign and Filipino workers were rescued from the Pogo complex, situated on a 10-hectare property comprising 46 buildings, villas, and other structures, as well as its own golf course.

Authorities are still conducting verification on the rescued individuals in a bid to identify the victims and those who run the illegal business.

At least four individuals were identified as kidnap victims. Two of them were still handcuffed and full of bruises and torture marks when found by the police.

The PAOCC said they also found a cellphone containing videos of women who were being sold online for sexual services through bidding.

Alleged Chinese military uniform sets, sex toys, and animals were also seized during the continuing raid.

The uniforms will be examined for legitimacy.

“Medyo kinagulat lang natin. Siya ba ay pumasok doon dahil gusto niya magtrabaho sa Pogo hub at dati siyang military? Kung makakakuha tayo ng impormasyon na siya ay in active service at siya ay pumasok doon sa Pogo hub na yun para for other intention malalaman natin yan through our investigation,” said PAOCC chief Gilbert Cruz.

The said Pogo firm, Lucky South 99, was raided and shut down on September 17, 2022, also over alleged involvement in illegal activities.

As reported, Mayor Jaime Capil signed the 2019 Mayor’s Permit and 2019 municipal resolution of notice of no objection used to apply for the Pogo firm’s license, permit, and franchise in 2019.

Capil earlier denied knowledge of ongoing illegal operations of the said Pogo firm in his jurisdiction.

Pogo ban

Following the Porac raid, Senator Risa Hontiveros reiterated the urgent need to ban Pogos in the country

“The implications of these uniforms should send chills down our spine. 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,” she said in a statement.

Hontiveros said she would file a bill that will seek to repeal Republic Act 11590 or the Pogo tax law, a measure signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte that imposes more taxes on offshore gaming companies in the country.

Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, launched a probe on May 7, 2024, into the raided Pogo hub, Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated (ZYTI), in Bamban, Tarlac.

The raid, conducted in March, resulted in the rescue of 800 employees, including approximately 500 foreigners, 427 of whom were Chinese nationals.

ZYTI was allegedly involved in surveillance activities and hacking of government websites, among other criminal activities.

Senator Grace Poe supported Hontiveros' call for a total ban of Pogos in the country, saying that by doing so, the government would save money as raids on such facilities have become costly already.

“For every operation against a Pogo, the government spends millions for the personnel needed, food, and shelter of the rescued, deportation of undesirables, filling of court cases, and other related expenses,” she said.

“We reiterate our call for a resolute policy banning Pogos. This will not only bring a permanent halt to their illegal activities, but will also plug the utilization of government resources, which could have otherwise been spent on useful social services for our people,” she added.

In a radio interview, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation Alejandro Tengco said after he took office, he ordered an overhaul of the guidelines for Pogo operations.

Instead of Pogo, he said it is now called Internet Gaming Licensee (IGL).

Of the over 300 IGLs, only 46 were given renewed licenses to operate due to the “illegal activities” of the others.

Tengco said they are closely coordinating with the PAOCC to identify the IGLs whose operating licenses were not renewed but may still be operational, such as Lucky South 99. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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