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POGO hub yields 'torture chamber' in Pasay City

Authorities discovered an alleged torture chamber in a Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) hub in Pasay City that was raided over reports that the facility housed illegal operations, including sex trafficking, love, and crypto scams.

In Saleema Refran’s “24 Oras” report on Monday, various torture devices were found inside a room, including heavy-duty tasers, airsoft guns, baseball bats, and a wooden club. Also seen were several handcuffs attached to a metal bar on a wall.

“’Yung mga hindi daw nagbabayad ng utang lalo kung sila ay gumamit ng mga prostitution rooms saka nung mga babae dito, 'yung merong mga may atraso sa kanila, 'yun ang tino-torture nila doon sa room na yun,” said Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) Executive Director Gilbert Cruz.

(They torture those who fail to pay their debts, especially customers of the prostitution rooms.)

The PAOCC and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) on Friday raided the alleged POGO hub following reports of illegal activities. 

Seven Filipinos and two foreign nationals who were allegedly sexually trafficked were rescued in the operation.

Authorities also discovered 731 workers during a search of the premises. The workers were a mix of foreigners and Filipinos.

Meanwhile, six individuals - five Chinese nationals and a Filipino recruiter - underwent inquest proceedings over sex trafficking charges.

“Sila ay na-recruit sa pamamagitan ng Facebook. Needed ng encoder pero nung actual nila pinuntahan nalaman nila na ang magiging trabaho nila ay, yun nga, ay isa sila sa mga ipo-prostitute dito,” said IACAT official and Assistant City Prosecutor Maricar dela Cruz.

(They were recruited through Facebook. They were told they would work as encoders. But after they arrived in the POGO hub, they discovered they were being prostituted.)

The special task force also said they arrested three more Chinese nationals who attempted to escape by jumping out of the building.

At least 500 foreign nationals are undergoing immigration inquest for overstaying.

For its part, the Pasay City police said it would coordinate with the investigation as instructed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The POGO hub was located near a police station and the Pasay City Hall.

PAOCC said the city police provided them with intelligence information.

“We are not really allowed to operate on POGOs kasi only the PAOCC was designated to be the agency allowed by the government to operate on POGOs. Meron naman kami na mga nare-rescue na mga individuals sa mga different POGOs,” said Pasay Police Chief Police Colonel Froilan Uy.

(We are not allowed to operate on POGOs because the PAOCC was the designated government office for that. We have rescued victims in different POGO firms.)

GMA Integrated News sought comment from the Pasay City government, but the local government had yet to respond as of posting time. — Sundy Locus/DVM, GMA Integrated News