Teodoro: Pogo a national security concern

DND Sec. Gilbert 'Gibo' Teodoro.
DND Sec. Gilbert 'Gibo' Teodoro.File Photo

DEFENSE Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. has expressed concern over criminal syndicates posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogos).

In a statement Wednesday, June 12, 2024, Teodoro said Pogo operations in the country should be stopped.

"The concern is that we should stop these syndicated criminal activities operating out of our base, which weaken our financial standing, our country ratings, [and] corrupt our society. Now, I do not characterize these establishments as Pogos. These are not Pogos. Pogos, traditionally, are business processing outsourcing," he said.

"For example, there are legitimate Pogos where the bets and the payoffs are taken from other countries [such as] horse racing in Europe, [and] sports betting; only the matching of bets and payouts are done here but the bets originate [from] outside [the country]. Yung POGO na alam natin [dito sa Pilipinas] na operated to evade the ban on gambling in China, the bets originate here. So, may diperensya,” he added.

Teodoro made the statement following the raid of an illegal Pogo in Porac, Pampanga, which resulted in the apprehension of at least 186 foreign and Filipino workers.

The unlicensed Pogo hub was alleged to be involved in various illegal activities such as kidnapping, torture, illegal detention and sexual abuse of women, among others, based on the pieces of evidence found during the raid.

Two Chinese nationals who claimed they were kidnapped were still handcuffed and full of bruises and torture marks when found by the police.

Also found during the raid in the establishments situated in a 10-hectare property were Chinese military uniforms and an alleged outstanding badge of a Chinese military sergeant.

Authorities are still verifying the legitimacy of the seized items.

ZYTI

The raid came three months after the police raided Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated (ZYTI) in Bamban, Tarlac, in March, resulting in the rescue of 800 employees, including around 500 foreigners, among whom were 427 Chinese nationals.

ZYTI was allegedly involved in surveillance activities and hacking of government websites, among other criminal activities, putting Bamban Mayor Alice Guo in bad light.

Guo’s nationality was put into question after it was discovered that she used to own half of the land leased by ZYTI for their illegal operations.

The local chief executive’s father is a Chinese national, while she claims that her mother is a Filipina.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), however, said the person she claimed to be her mother was non-existent.

Earlier, Senator Risa Hontiveros alleged that Guo was a "Chinese spy" amid China’s aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.

“The authorities are now digesting and analyzing the evidence uncovered in the ongoing information gathering on Pogo activities and raids that were recently conducted in Tarlac and Pampanga,” said Teodoro.

Hontiveros earlier urged the National Government to declare Pogo a threat to national security and to order its total ban in the country.

'No Pogo in military camps'

Meanwhile, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairman Alejandro Tengco assured that there are no licensed Pogo operating in military camps.

“Kaya maliwanag, illegal na naman ‘yang mga hub na sinasabi na nakadikit sa mga military camps na yan,” he said.

(So it is clear, those hubs supposedly connected to those military camps are illegal again.)

A security expert likened Pogos, especially those near military bases, to a “Trojan horse” that can stage a surprise attack in the Philippines for their unrestricted warfare.

Tengco earlier said that out of nearly 300 Pogos before he took office in 2023, only 46 were given renewed licenses to operate due to the 'illegal activities' of the others. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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