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DILG shuts down POGO establishment, rescues 43 trafficked foreigners

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday said it shut down a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) establishment in Pampanga and rescued at least 43 foreign nationals from allegedly human trafficking.

Following a series of raids, DILG secretary Benhur Abalos and officials of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group permanently closed the Lucky 99 Outsourcing Inc. offices, located at Fil-Am Friendship Hi-Way in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Abalos said the raids resulted in the rescue of the foreign nationals who were brought to the establishment.

The DILG secretary said the police would continue to apprehend individuals involved in similar illegal activities as part of the intensified crackdown on POGOs involved in human trafficking.

He said the department sought help from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in conducting a deeper probe on the issue.

"With the help of PAGCOR and the SEC, we will be able to identify who are the individuals behind this illegality," he said in a statement.

Abalos said the DILG also sought assistance from the Bureau of Immigration to check the visas of the rescued foreign nationals.

"We will make sure that all victims will be accorded due process as the Immigration [Bureau] checks their documents and visas properly to avoid being victimized again," he said.

The DILG Secretary also encouraged the public to report such illegal activities in their respective areas.

"We are nearing the end of the pandemic and the only way to put a stop to this is by working together," he added.

The Department of Finance in September 2019 threatened to shut down POGOs with tax liabilities, with uncollected withholding income taxes then estimated at P21.62 billion. A number of POGOs have since been closed. — DVM, GMA News