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MANILA, Philippines – Abductions of Chinese online gaming workers have become a fairly frequent occurrence in the cities of Makati, Muntinlupa, and Parañaque, said Makati Police Investigation Unit chief Major Gideon Ines Jr on Tuesday, December 10.
Ines is leading efforts to investigate the abduction of a Chinese woman named Zhou Mei, 28, who was forcibly taken into a van on the corner of Perea and Paseo de Roxas streets in the Makati Central Business District on Monday night, December 9.
Mei is a Philippine online gaming operation (POGO) worker, as is her partner, Chen Tangbin, also a Chinese national. Investigators are looking at a tussle over a deed of sale between the couple and another Chinese man as a possible motive for Mei’s abduction.
“Marami nang ganyan (There have been many cases like that),” Ines told Rappler on Tuesday afternoon. In his 3 years with the Makati Police, there have been an average of one such case every month. In 2018, the monthly average was two cases.
“Halimbawa, gusto nilang pagkakakitaan…. Minsan may naso-short ng pera diyan, mga ganu’n eh. Gagawa sila ng paraan,” Ines added. (For example, they want to make money…. When they run short of cash, that sort of thing. They look for a way.)
In some cases, a POGO operator runs after an employee for stealing money. These are online gambling dealers, Ines pointed out, so they tend to get into trouble over bets – sometimes to the tune of millions.
The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group has worked on several cases of abductions in which both the victims and suspects were Chinese nationals. Mei’s case is one of many, and not “isolated” as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and former PNP chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa claimed on Tuesday. (READ: Actress Gabby Padilla on Duterte: 'Didn’t he promise you safer streets?')
The latest incident came just two days after Makati Mayor Abigail Binay announced Makati would temporarily stop issuing new business licenses and permits to service providers of POGOs. (READ: Ace Barbers warns POGOs make PH vulnerable to drugs, money laundering)
The mayor cited the increase in crimes and prostitution cases concerning foreign POGO workers as the reason behind the indefnite moratorium.
“I have ordered greater police visibility to ensure the safety and protection of all Makatizens, including foreign nationals who work and conduct business in the city,” Binay said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I have directed the Makati police chief to stay on top of the follow-up operations and give immediate updates. All leads are being pursued to immediately identify the suspects, locate their whereabouts and apprehend them, and safely rescue the victim,” added Binay.
Binay, however, described the case as an “isolated incident.”
“While this is an isolated incident, we appeal to all Makatizens to take an active part in keeping our homes, streets and communities safe for us and our children,” said the Makati mayor.
Still, she urged Makati residents to use their Makatizen app to report crimes and other urgent concerns to authorities. “Contacting our authorities should be our first course of action,” said Binay. – with a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.