(Courtesy of Anadolu)

MANILA – A licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) was used as a legal cover for a cryptocurrency scam and human trafficking operation, Senator Risa Hontiveros claimed on Tuesday.

The scammer, Colorful and Leap Group, is a sublessee of CGC Technologies, Inc., a POGO company licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) located in Clark, Pampanga.

It was the same company raided by law enforcement authorities on May 4, resulting in the arrest of at least 12 who were allegedly supervising the operations.

The repatriation process is ongoing for over 1,000 human trafficking victims from Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Bhutan, among others.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking confirmed the scam operations and that scam hubs hide under a legal cover during the Senate Committee on Women probe on human trafficking and cyber fraud operation in Clark.

"It is appalling that this fraudulent cryptocurrency corporation, which has trafficked thousands of foreign nationals into the country to work as scammers, has been operating under a legal POGO. Ginagamit o nagpapagamit ang mga POGO para manloko ng mga inosenteng tao (POGO used their license or they allow to be used to dupe innocent people)," Hontiveros said in a news release.

Hontiveros said PAGCOR, as regulator of POGOs, should be actively looking into the companies that they allow to operate in the country.

“Otherwise, it is, in effect, exacerbating this growing and disturbing humanitarian crisis in our region," Hontiveros said.

She reiterated her call to ban POGOs.

"If POGOs are allowed to continue business as usual, the crypto scam and human trafficking operations will also grow at a frightening rate our government will never be able to overtake,” she said.

In previous inquiries, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged for "the adoption of a resolution urging the executive department to immediately ban all POGO operations in the country with the end in view of upholding the safety of the Filipino people, and to sustain the path to growth and development consistent with the administration's economic reforms."

"Kung susumahin ang lahat ng mga ebidensya at datos na isiniwalat na kaugnay sa operasyon ng POGO, lumalabas na puro perwisyo lamang at walang pakinabang sa bansa ang mga POGO. Panahon na para buwagin ito (Considering all the pieces of evidence and data revealed in the operation of POGO, it turns out that POGOs are just causing us a lot of inconvenience and are useless to the country. It is time to abolish it)," Gatchalian previously said.

Gatchalian also asked Congress to pass a legislation that would separate the functions of regulation from operation in PAGCOR’s charter, saying a new entity should be created to perform solely regulatory functions, authorization and licensing of games of chance and other forms of gambling. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)