POGO-linked kidnap cases rise amid pandemic

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

January 12, 2021, 2:29 pm

MANILA – The number of kidnapping cases involving Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) almost doubled last year amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) said on Tuesday.

Citing latest data, AKG director Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo said a total of 17 POGO-related kidnapping incidents was recorded in 2020, with 10 cases filed, 23 victims rescued, 33 suspects arrested and two suspects killed during police operations.

This translates to an 88-percent increase from only nine incidents recorded in 2019, with 13 victims rescued, 34 suspects arrested and six cases filed.

“There was a slight increase in the recorded cases particularly in the year 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since there was a stoppage on the operations of the online gaming casinos, employers have no profit and in order to survive they will detain their employees and deprive them and ask for money in exchange for liberty to their families abroad,” Estomo told reporters.

He, however, said the AKG continues to enhance its interoperability with local police units to be able to resolve kidnapping cases.

The victims of POGO-related kidnapping incidents last year include 18 Chinese nationals, three Taiwanese, one Malaysian, and one Vietnamese.

The suspects, meanwhile, include 26 Chinese, three Filipinos, two Indonesians, two Malaysians, one Filipino-Chinese, and one Taiwanese.

Meanwhile, the number of gambling-related kidnapping cases in the country last year decreased to 14, a 63-percent decline from 38 cases recorded in 2019.

Earlier, Estomo said they are closely coordinating and liaising with their foreign counterparts, the Department of Justice, National Capital Regional Police Office, the Bureau of Immigration, NAIA authorities, and other PNP territorial units regarding these incidents.

He said the AKG has partnered with Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation for the procurement of a mobile communication/investigation van and also set a summit on casino debt-related kidnappings, aimed at forming an action plan to combat these crimes. (PNA)