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PAOCC: Chinese military uniforms from Porac POGO are authentic

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on Thursday confirmed that the Chinese military uniforms found in the raided Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) compound in Porac, Pampanga are authentic but already old.

PAOCC spokesperson Winston John Casio said this translates to two possibilities: either veteran Chinese military personnel are working or are owners of the POGO hub, or the uniforms were part of someone’s militaria collection.

“We’ve talked to military experts from within the intelligence community. Apparently, they agree na ito nga ay mga [these are] authentic na military People’s Liberation Army (PLA) uniforms. But then again, dated na po ito, meaning to say, mga lumang uniporme [these are old or dated uniforms],” he said in a public briefing.

Casio, however, stressed that pending strong evidence that proves there is espionage happening in the Philippines, he would consider the Chinese army uniforms as only collector’s items. 

One of the seized digital camouflage uniforms have buttons with the initials of “P.L.A.”, which authorities earlier suspect might stand for the People's Liberation Army, the armed organization of the Chinese Communist Party and the principal military force of the People's Republic of China.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it is likely that the uniforms were only used as props in illicit online transactions.

"The limited number of PLA  uniforms found suggests they are more indicative of use in deceptive activities rather than any preparation for an invasion,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Francel Padilla said.

Recently, authorities also found an alleged "outstanding badge" of a Chinese military sergeant in the same POGO hub in Porac.

Casio said that if the badge is proven authentic, it might mean that a veteran Chinese police or soldier was employed, or involved with the POGO firm.

“‘Yung pinaka-malala ay baka naman talagang merong military spies na embedded sa mga illegal na mga online gaming farms na ito. Bear in mind, these are scam farms, these are what I dub as ‘conduits of money laundering,’” he said.

(The worst thing is that there might actually be military spies who are embedded in these illegal online gaming farms. Bear in mind, these are scam farms are what I dub as ‘conduits of money laundering.’)

“So medyo malaking problema ito para sa bayan natin kung mapatunayan natin na meron ngang nakapasok sa mga espiya sa mga scam farms na ito,” he added. 

(It would be a big problem for our country if we prove that there are actually spies in these scam farms.)

Last week, the PAOCC implemented a search warrant against the POGO hub based on a complaint of alleged human trafficking happening inside the 10-hectare establishment. It was also reportedly involved in various criminal activities such as human trafficking, sex trafficking, torture, kidnapping, and scamming.

According to Ivan Mayrina’s 24 Oras report, authorities arrested over a hundred POGO workers in the temporary detention facility in Pasay.

Many were charged with violating immigration rules and those proven to have been involved in illegal activities will be prosecuted.

According to PAOCC, most of the over 400 canceled internet gaming licenses of POGOS have now become scam farms. In their last count based on the list given by the PAGOR whose license has been revoked, 58 are active scam farms. It is said that the actual number is most likely higher, especially in Metro Manila, Central and Southern Luzon.

“The number of scam farms that are operating out there could be anywhere between as low as 58 to as high as 402. Siguro (Maybe) the median number would be 300. Now, nasaan po sila, nagkalat po sila, (where are they, they are everywhere) they are all over the country,” Casio noted.

PAOCC said that totally banning POGOs is not  an easy solution. 

EDCA sites

Further, Casio confirmed that “a good number” of online gaming sites were detected near Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites.

“We have shared our concerns with the proper authorities and we do hope that PAGCOR, together with the other regulatory agencies do sit down together with the Department of National Defense, so that once and for all, we’re able to ensure that not a single scam farm or licensed POGO will be located near our EDCA sites,” he said.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Wednesday said that criminal syndicates posing as POGO are national security concerns, adding that they “weaken our financial standing, our country ratings, [and] corrupt our society.”

Amid the recent developments in the POGO industry, Casio also called on local government officials to help combat the illegal activities perpetrated in POGO hubs to concerned national government agencies.—RF, GMA Integrated News