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NSC: POGOs can be dealt with by law enforcement, regulatory agencies

The National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday said there is no current need for military forces to intervene amid security concerns surrounding Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

“Currently, we do not view POGOs per se as a national security threat at the level that would necessitate the direct involvement of the defense forces. At the moment, it is a national concern that law enforcement and regulatory agencies can address,” National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said in a statement. 

Año said the NSC is currently assessing the national security implications posed by POGOs involved in criminal and illegal activities while pointing out the these firms are different compared to other threats such as terrorist, rebel or insurgent groups. 

 “The issues related to illegal POGOs, such as illegal activities and regulatory violations, can be addressed within the framework of existing government regulations and law enforcement mechanisms and does not warrant the intervention of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as in the case of going after declared national security threats such as the Abu Sayyaf or the CPP-NPA-NDF,” he maintained. 

The recently raided POGO hub in Porac, Pampanga early this month, wherein over 150 foreigners were rescued, has pushed for a Senate investigation into the people behind the said firm.

Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines said that the camouflage uniforms found in the raided POGO hub could have been used only as props for its online scams, several senators still urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to totally ban POGOs in the country.

However, the NSC recognizes that illegal POGOs “should not be tolerated” and it “will continue to work closely with relevant government agencies and stakeholders to gather comprehensive data and insights, providing a balanced and informed perspective.”

“This approach will help ensure that any policy regarding the future of POGOs and other related operations in the Philippines are made with a clear understanding of their implications to national security,” said Ano.

The Philippine Navy on Wednesday also said that POGOs are not yet considered as threats to national security.

For his part, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said that criminal syndicates posing as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hubs are concerning.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission earlier said that there were around 300 POGOs illegally operating in the country. —Vince Angelo Ferreras/RF, GMA Integrated News