By Wilnard Bacelonia

EXECUTIVE SESSION. Members of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality prepare for an executive session on Wednesday (June 5, 2024). The closed-door hearing was conducted to hear the positions of various security and anti-crime agencies of government on the presence of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country. (Photo courtesy of Senator Hontiveros’ office)

MANILA – Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros believes that the executive session convened on Wednesday by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality have strengthened the call of senators to totally ban Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.

In a press briefing following the executive session, Hontiveros said various concerned agencies invited – which include representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), among others –were able to “freely” share the developments in their respective investigations on POGOs.

“I’m more confident na talagang magiging mabigat at solido yung mga kasong inihain na at maaaring ihain pa ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng executive ng ating gobyerno (that the cases that have been filed and may be filed by various executive agencies of our government will really be strong and solid),” she told reporters during the Kapihan sa Senado.

Lumalabas ang katotohanan, hindi sa bibig ni Mayor Alice Guo at hindi lamang sa aming puspusang imbestigasyon, pati sa mga parallel investigation ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno (The truth is coming out, not from Mayor Alice Guo’s mouth and not only from our exhaustive investigation, but also from parallel investigations by government agencies),” she said.

Hontiveros is hoping that the NSC will raise what was discussed in the executive session to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to have a “coordinated” approach among concerned agencies in addressing the issues surrounding POGOs.

Nagpapasalamat ako na yung mga ahensya na dumalo sa executive session ay pinag-aaralan talaga itong anggulo ng POGO kaugnay ng pambansang seguridad at umaasa ako na pagdating ng susunod na public hearing mas masasabi na nila and publicly ano na yung posisyon yung kanilang department o agency at kung paano nila aaksyunan ito (I am grateful that the agencies that attended the executive session really studied this angle of POGO in relation to national security, and I hope that when the next public hearing comes, they will be able to publicly expound the position of their department or agency and how they are planning to act on it),” she said.

She said they will set another briefing with the AMLC regarding “illegal revenue streams” before conducting another public hearing for “further sharpening” of their findings and recommendations to be written in the panel’s committee report.

The Senate panel began the series of inquiries in response to resolutions filed by senators on the reported human trafficking, cyberfraud, serious illegal detention, physical abuse, and torture happening in POGOs.

Mayor Alice Guo of Bamban, Tarlac became one of the subjects of the inquiry after she was linked to a POGO raided by government authorities in her town.

She was not invited by the panel to attend the executive session. (PNA)