Pogo hubs linked to surveillance activities, hacking of websites

MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros.
MANILA. Senator Risa Hontiveros.Senate photo

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros has expressed alarm over the reported involvement of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) in surveillance activities and hacking of government websites.

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality chaired by Hontiveros launched on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, its probe into the recently raided Pogo hub, Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated (ZYTI), in Bamban, Tarlac, which resulted in the rescue of 800 employees, including around 500 foreigners, of which 427 were Chinese nationals.

Hontiveros said she was “disturbed” after receiving information from the intelligence community that the Pogo hub is also being used for surveillance activities.

She said the hacking of state agency websites was also “traceable” to the complex.

“Are Pogos now being used to spy on us? Ginigisa na ba tayo sa sarili nating mantika?” said Hontiveros.

The raid stemmed from a complaint of one of its Vietnamese workers who escaped from the facility, which is located a few meters away from the Municipal Hall of Bamban in Tarlac.

Also found in the 7.9-hectare property, owned by Baofu Land Development Inc., (BLDI) but was leased to ZYTI, were several luxury vehicles and huge amount of cash hidden inside security vaults, among others.

Hontiveros also noted the gleaming villas found within the compound, valued at over P40 million each; the wine cellar; state-of-the-art kitchen and toilets; an underground bunker; and a maze of tunnels.

“Ang tanong, bakit may bunker, bakit may tunnels (The question is why is there a bunker and tunnels)? Why would a registered Pogo conducting legal activities need this?” she said.

“Pogo at scams lang ba ang intensyon, or is there a larger, and more sinister end game? It does not abate my worries in the least that separate sources in the intelligence community and various executive agencies are sounding the alarm of large tracts of land around Edca Sites being purchased by Chinese nationals with Filipino identity documents. Ang modus, di umano, ay late registration of birth,” Hontiveros added.

The lawmaker said there was also a clear documentary evidence linking Bamban Mayor Alice Guo to the operations of ZYTI.

It appeared in the hearing that Guo helped the company secure the permission to operate.

It was noted that the facilities’ electric meter was registered under Guo's name and that she owned one of the luxury vehicles recovered from the compound.

Guo denied the allegations but she admitted that she owned half of the BLDI.

“It is sad that I have been judged prematurely. I was tried publicly based on baseless allegations and made-up stories,” she said.

“I’m not connected with nor a protector or coddler of Pogos. I have no knowledge about their operations,” she added.

Hontiveros further pushed to stop all Pogo operations in the country.

“I would like to take this opportunity to call on the President that if we really want to fight crimes and the threats to our national security, he will be well-advised to ban Pogos now,” she said. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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