The Philippines is, similarly to other nations in the region, looking to act against its illegal gambling industry. Over the weekend, the national regulator, PAGCOR, conducted an enforcement action that resulted in the closure of two Philippine Offshore Operators, commonly known as POGOs. More than 140 foreign workers were rescued from slave-like work conditions, and one POGO had its license revoked during the raids.
POGOs Come Under Fire from Philippine Authorities
This is the result of close collaborations between different branches of government, with authorities vowing to do more to fight illegal POGO-related crimes, as they put it in their reports. According to PAGCOR, the latest enforcement action against illegal operators was the result of a close collaboration between the National Police, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the watchdog itself.
In Angeles City, 40 foreign nationals were rescued and turned over to the Bureau of Immigration to help them make it back home. Crimson Tulip BPO, a POGO company, had its license revoked, and 100 workers were freed. The workers had been kidnapped and detained illegally, the authorities explained.
The Chinese embassy in the Philippines hailed these efforts and said that it was precisely what is expected from Philippine authorities. A total of 70 Chinese nationals, 44 Filipinos, and 16 Vietnamese, along with two Taiwanese, and a Malaysian, were rescued from working at the POGO. Many such companies have been luring overseas workers with promises of fat paychecks.
Most workers, however, came only to discover that their would-be employers were quasi-gangsters who forcibly took away their passports and forced them to work, and kept them under lock and key. The latest crackdown is also PAGCOR chief Alejandro Tengco’s response to what he believes is a failure to address the growing problem of human trafficking that is clearly taking place at POGO operators.
Tackling Human-Trafficking Is Essential to Long-Term Sustainability
He urged the government and authorities to act together and make sure that kidnapping and human trafficking were tackled. Otherwise, he warned, the POGO industry may need to shut down, similarly to how e-sabong turned out to be a lucrative business but had to be shut down due to the many incidents of kidnappings and crime with it. Some of the cases involved corrupt cops.
The suspension of Crimson Tulip BPO, Inc’s license, says Tengco, is nevertheless a signal that authorities are prepared to make tough decisions in order to help the country and its gambling industry stay clean.