By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday urged authorities to hunt down Chinese syndicates in the country’s Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) industry, arrest and bring them to jail.
Gatchalian expressed fear that Filipino workers could soon be the next target of these syndicates unless the government, particularly the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI), step up their efforts against the proliferation of these Chinese criminal syndicates in the country.
The senator noted that these syndicates carry out criminal activities even against their fellow nationals working in the POGO industry amid kidnapping incidents.
He said what is even worse is when these foreign criminal groups move towards human trafficking and kidnapping of our fellow Filipinos.
“The PNP, NBI and the BI should step up their efforts in hunting down these syndicates who are not only into kidnapping activities but at the same time have been operating prostitution dens and many forms of human trafficking. They should go to jail,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian said these government agencies should work together as an inter-agency task force, with the help of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) to intensify the crackdown on these criminal groups.
This way, they will unify, synchronize and optimize efforts and resources in the handling, investigation and prosecution of kidnapping and human trafficking cases in the country.
He also said the PNP should intensify its police visibility by conducting regular checkpoints and security patrols around Metro Manila.
Most POGO operations, he pointed out, are concentrated in the Makati Central Business District, Bonifacio Global City and the Bay Area in Pasay and Parañaque cities.
He also urged the BI to implement stricter immigration monitoring and beef up border security to ward off the entry of illegal foreign traffickers.
Border officers should be in close coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and the PNP Maritime Group, Gatchalian stressed.
The Senate Labor and Employment Committee under Sen. Joel Villanueva earlier cited accumulated media reports specifying that there were 634 Chinese fugitives coming from several POGO service providers who were arrested from September 2019 to January 2020.
Most of them are involved in various forms of investment scams while 14 were into online phishing and one reportedly led a criminal syndicate.
The same report showed that the number of prostitution dens ballooned in the same period that led to the arrest of 77 Chinese women involved and rescued 241 Chinese, Taiwanese and Filipino women who were forced into joining the illicit activity.
A BI report also showed it deported 886 foreign criminals who were confirmed fugitives from 2017. Officials said they were either undocumented or had no visa or working permit.
On the other hand, data from the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG), show that the number of abduction cases involving Chinese nationals rose by 71 percent to 58 cases in 2019 from 34 cases in 2018.
Of these 58 cases, there were 31 incidents of casino-related kidnappings or victims abducted by their loan sharks after they incurred huge debts.