(WARNING: This story has potentially upsetting content. Readers should exercise caution.)
Senator Grace Poe has called on the country’s authorities to investigate alleged Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO)-related incidents that have victimized Filipinos after a friend of her sister-in-law fell victim to a fake job offer, was held captive, and was only released after a P250,000 ransom was paid.
During her privilege speech on Wednesday, Sen. Poe stated that the problem involving POGO abductions is not yet resolved and that the authorities in the Philippines need to continue their investigation into the matter in order to stop additional people from becoming victims.
She said that the trusted friend of her sister-in-law had been kidnapped in a busy area in Pasay and brought to a POGO dorm in Cavite, where she was sold off to a “Chinese-looking buyer.”
The victim was allegedly offered a job as a personal assistant for a minimum of P100,000 a month. However, on the day she went down her condominium at Shore 2 Residences by SMDC near Mall of Asia to meet up with the person whom she believed to be her employer, she was forced to ride a red Mitsubishi Xpander.
“Suwerteng may kaibigan na nakakita sa pangyayari kaya nakunan ng litrato ang nasabing sasakyan. Sinubukan ng biktima na tumakas, ngunit binugbog siya ng kanyang mga kidnappers at makikita natin sa mga litrato ang hirap na dinanas ng biktima sa kamay ng mga kumidnap sa kanya,” Sen. Poe told the Senate.
The victim was allegedly taken to Cavite, where people who appeared to be Chinese wanted to purchase her for P320,000. She begged one of these buyers to bargain for her at P250,000, which her sister would later pay.
Sen. Poe narrated further that the buyer felt sorry for her because of the state she was in—beaten black and blue and covered in wounds—that’s why she was bought and brought to a POGO dorm in Shuangma Industrial Park in Molino Boulevard, Bacoor, Cavite.
“Hindi pa dito nagtatapos ang kalbaryo ng biktima dahil pagdating niya sa naturang POGO dorm ay mistulang ibebenta daw siya ulit. Agad agad na tinubos ng kanyang brother-in-law ang biktima sa halagang P250,000 doon mismo sa POGO dorm na yon,” she said.
“Marami pa raw biktima ang naroon. The victim’s family is willing to coordinate with authorities on this,” she added.
According to the PAGCOR list of legitimate POGOs in the country, Shuangma is run by Brickhartz Technology Inc. Further investigation revealed that a kidnap victim, Mr. Pan of Yongping, China, was also rescued from the same company in October of this year.
Earlier in September, Sen. Poe said 23 Myanmar and six Chinese nationals, employees of MOA Cloudzone Corporation, were also rescued by police and social workers. The information was reportedly disclosed by two Myanmar nationals who were turned over the same POGO company Brickhartz.
“Anong ibig sabihin nito… hanggang ngayon, sa kabila ng mga pangako ng PNP, PAGCOR, at Association of POGO, POGO-related crimes still persist. And not just that—all the problems that come with POGO operations, legal or not, also persist and has gotten worst,” she said.
She added that POGO has turned gambling into a “whole host of other more serious problems like kidnapping, serious physical injuries, and human trafficking.
“Kung hindi tayo kikilos ngayon, marami pang biktima ang siguradong susunod,” she said.
Sen. Poe also disputed the PNP’s November report that there had been no POGO-related incidents lately. “But even without any official report, it is clear that these crimes are happening before us.”
“Let’s face the music, and decide once and for all, if our institutions are still stronger than POGO and can rein in the risk to peace and order, and possible long-term damage to the rule of law while these POGO-related crimes continue. I said it before and I’ll say it again, an abduction case is one too many—leave it unresolved and it will spread like wildfire,” she said.