Gatchalian laments POGO-related kidnapping incidents remain unabated

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday, March 21 lamented how kidnappings related to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) remain unabated despite assurances made by police authorities that crimes involving POGOs have been addressed.

Gatchalian revealed this in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means report following a series of public hearings on the socio-economic impact of POGO operations in the Philippines.

Citing a letter dated March 9, 2023, the senator said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed a kidnapping incident involving a licensed POGO service provider in the Philippines.

NBI Director Atty. Medardo de Lemos, in his letter to the senator, said that on Feb. 16, 2023, Consul Cao Kaiwen of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Philippines requested the assistance of the NBI in rescuing a male Chinese national named Cao Xialong, who is allegedly being illegally detained at Brickhartz Technology Inc., Shuangma Park.

“This is alarming as it shows some POGOs continue to engage themselves in illegal activities,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate ways and means panel.

“Also, this speaks volumes of the industry’s wanton disregard and mockery of our laws on peace and order,” the senator added.

He noted that Brickhartz is the same POGO service provider implicated in a separate kidnapping and human trafficking case cited by Senator Grace Poe in a privilege speech in December last year.

A separate letter dated March 17, 2023 from Region 3 Director Police Brigadier General Jose Hidalgo Jr. also revealed that the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) led an entrapment operation at the premises of POGO operator Lucky South 99 in Angeles City, Pampanga last Sept. 14, 2022.

The said operation led to the rescue of Wu Jia Ming, a Chinese national and 42 other foreign nationals.

Arrested in this operation was Chen Yi Ben, also a Chinese national and human resource staff of Lucky South 99. A criminal case was also filed against Chen Yi Ben and two other Chinese nationals still at large, Qi Xi Chen and Hao Nan.

“Hindi pa rin tumitigil ang ganitong mga krimen na kinasasangkutan ng mga POGO. Malinaw na kinakasangkapan lang nila ang operasyon nila sa bansa para maisakatuparan ang mga iligal nilang aktibidad (Such crimes involving POGOs still do not stop. It is clear that they are only equipping their operations in the country to carry out their illegal activities),” Gatchalian lamented.