CEBU CITY, Philippines – Police arrested in a raid Saturday, September 7, 181 Chinese working in an illegal Philippine offshore gaming operation (POGO) office in Lapu-Lapu City for violating cybercrime and illegal gambling laws.
The operation was the culmination of an 8-month surveillance by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Central Visayas (CIDG-7) of the Xin Huang Jin Cheng company which operated in a 12-storey building in Lapu-Lapu City.
Because of their big number, all those arrested were first brought to the PNP-CIDG regional headquarters here for inquest proceedings. They were later detained in the nearby Barangay Zapatera gym.
While inquests are usually done at the prosecutor’s office, for security purposes, it was Sheilamar Saliganan Abadia of the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor's Office who instead went to CIDG office here
“It is for practical reasons and security reasons also that we conducted the inquest proceedings here in CIDG,” Abadia said during a press conference.
A CIDG-7 official said the Xin Huang Jin Cheng company occupied all 12 floors of the building for its illegal operation.
Investigators said documents presented by company officials showed it was licensed as a business process outsourcing (BPO) agency. The police added it was not among the 60 POGOs licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to operate in the country.
Police said separate charges were being prepared against Xin Huang Jin Cheng.
Meanwhile, Jeff David, lawyer of Xin Huang Jin Cheng, said in a statement sent to media on Wednesday, September 11, that the company was registered as "an accredited Customer Relations Service Provider and was issued Certificates of Accreditation and Authority to Operate valid until May 22, 2020.”
David said the CIDG's raid was not coordinated with Pagcor. He added that the police also threatened legal counsel on site during the raid. “The officers attempted to intimidate and outright threaten them with arrest for obstruction of justice, while they were performing their sworn duty for their clients,” David said.
In August, China asked the Philippines to ban all forms of online gambling and to suspend accepting POGO applications. (READ: China wants Philippines to ban online gambling)
However, President Rodrigo Duterte said that that he would not ban POGOs because the revenues these bring to the country.
While the Philippine government cited the benefits of POGOs, critics like Senator Joel Villanueva have called for more scrutiny because of the rise in the number of foreign workers in the country.
Villanueva also attributed the increase in housing costs to the influx of POGO workers.
Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Hermogenes Esperon raised security issues as a concern over the influx of foreign workers. – Rappler.com