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POGO hub in Pasay raided over alleged sex trafficking, various scams

Authorities on Friday raided a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hub in Pasay City following reports of illegal activities, including sex trafficking, love and crypto scams.

In a media conference on Saturday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said joint forces of the Department of Justice-Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and Office of Cybercrime (OOC), the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF), Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC), and Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group (IMEG), armed with a search warrant, conducted the raid.

Upon inspection of the location, authorities discovered about 80 rooms which were allegedly used for sexual acts involving trafficked persons.

The establishment also has an “aquarium,” an area where victims of prostitution, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino women, wait to be “selected” by customers.

Remulla said the establishment served as a “self-contained” community for patrons, as it contained facilities including an entertainment center, KTVs, canteens, barber shops, restaurants and dubious spa “services.”

“Para siyang (It seemed to be a) one-stop shop for what you need or what you want for maybe sexually oriented activities,” he said.

As the raid was announced, two Chinese workers approached the authorities and claimed they were being held against their will. Torture marks were present on their bodies, and torture devices were recovered on the fourth floor of the building.

One of the Chinese victims said he was kidnapped and sold for P500,000 five months ago from another POGO operation. The other victim meanwhile said he had been held against his will for over a year and was made to work between 12 to 15 hours a day.

According to authorities, 731 workers were discovered during the search of the premises. The workers were a mix of foreigners and Filipinos.

Seven allegedly trafficked Filipino women were also rescued.

He added that some foreign nationals were allegedly being held and tortured inside the facility. About 10 Filipino women were also rescued.

Several computers possibly used for love and crypto scams were seized.

Nine foreign nationals who were allegedly behind the operation of the POGO hub are under investigation.

Remulla said authorities were now studying the complaints that could be filed against suspects.

Authorities were also investigating the documents of the establishment, which was constructed near the Pasay City Hall, a police station, and a barangay hall.

"This is a call to all our local government units to be wary of all activities that have to go with POGO to make sure that all their inspections are properly done," Remulla said in a 24 Oras Weekend report by Saleema Refran on Saturday.

GMA Integrated News has sought comment from the Pasay City LGU but the city government had yet to respond as of posting time. — DVM, GMA Integrated News