PAOCC to LGUs: Report potential scam farms, POGO hubs

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

June 13, 2024, 5:01 pm

<p>Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission spokesperson Winston John Casio <em>(PNA file photo by Ben Pulta) </em></p>

Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission spokesperson Winston John Casio (PNA file photo by Ben Pulta) 

MANILA – The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on Thursday urged local government units to report the possible establishment and operation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) hubs and scam farms in their areas.

"Ako'y nanawagan ulit sa ating mga mayors, sa ating mga governors, sa ating mga barangay captains, ipagbigay alam po ang inyong mga pangamba sa mga kapulisan, sa ating national government agencies, nang sa gayon, atin pong mapasara ang mga ito kung meron po silang ginagawang illegal (I'm appealing again to our mayors, governors, our barangay captains, please report to the police your concerns, to our national government agencies, so we can close them down if they're doing illegal things)," PAOCC spokesperson Winston John Casio said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview aired over PTV.

This, as the number of illegal POGOs in Porac, Pampanga continues to rise and more pieces of evidence – computers, cellphones, guns, and ammunition – are discovered during police investigations.

Casio said these illegal infrastructures are big and "suddenly" put up nationwide, but most of them could be found in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Region 4-A (Calabarzon).

"Kapag merong bigla na lang naitayo dyan sa inyong lugar na malalaking buildings, biglang dumarating ang mga dayuhan na hindi ninyo kilala at hindi maipaliwanag ang kanilang mga rason ng pananatili sa inyong bayan (When big buildings suddenly rise in your area, foreigners suddenly come and you don't know them, and they cannot explain the reason why they stay in the country), [report them]," he said.

The PAOCC has supervised the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and other police units in their investigation of scam farms or POGO hubs in Porac, Pampanga.

It has identified the "beneficial owners" and "owners on paper" of the illegal establishments as well as the torturers and victims of crimes related to them.

Casio said these persons are in a temporary detention facility in Pasay City and have undergone inquest by the Bureau of Immigration.

"We have filed immigration violation charges against them, those we've identified as victims, we won't be able to report them, as well as those we've identified as torturers and respondents eventually, we will bring them to court and we will have them answer for their crimes in the Philippines. The rest that you won't be able to charge criminally we would deport them at the soonest possible time as the funds become available," he said.

Some 402 POGOs have cancelled licenses last year based on documents from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation submitted to the PAOCC. About 58 transitioned into scam farms and are active.

Citing that at least 300 scam farms could be operating nationwide, Casio said closing them down and non-issuance of permits to operate are a policy concern.

"From a law enforcement perspective, closing them outrightly with just a click of a finger would be counter-productive, in as much as, look at what happened to the 402, many among these cancelled POGOs still operate, how to close them without operating under the radar?" he said.

"We [could] totally ban them, but we don't have the mechanism how they will be deported, how to acquire their equipment, how to forfeit their criminal proceeds," he said. (PNA)