By Wilnard Bacelonia

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he was “horrified” after learning that some Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) are reportedly working with local criminal syndicates.

During the Kapihan sa Senado, Gatchalian said the deepening ties between Chinese and local criminal groups were revealed by security and law enforcement agencies during Wednesday’s closed-door session conducted by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.

After nung first part [ng executive session], kinilabutan ako dahil nga na-confirm nung ating mga intelligence agencies yung kinakatakutan natin na lumalalim na yung ugat nitong POGO. Malalim, ibig sabihin, yung kanilang impluwensya umaabot na sa mga politiko, enforcement agencies tulad ng kapulisan, Bureau of Immigration at pangatlo meron silang binanggit dun na pati yung mga local criminal syndicates nakakasama na nila (After the first part of the executive session, I was horrified because our intelligence agencies confirmed what we were afraid of, that the root of this POGO is getting deeper. Deep, that is, their influence extends to politicians, enforcement agencies such as the police, the Bureau of Immigration, and thirdly, they mentioned that local criminal syndicates are already involved),” Gatchalian said.

Nakakatakot ito dahil pera ng mga foreign criminal syndicates pumupunta na dito, pinopondohan nila yung local criminal syndicates kaya nagsasanib-pwersa na itong mga masasamang elemento (This is scary because money from foreign criminal syndicates is coming here, they’re funding local criminal syndicates, so, these bad elements are now joining forces),” he added.

Gatchalian agreed with panel chairperson Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros that the National Security Council discuss their findings with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and recommend the total ban of POGO in the country.

Ang kinakatakutan ko baka umabot sa punto na hindi na natin mako-control ang mga ito at sila na ang ko-control sa gobyerno natin kasi may mga tao na silang binabayaran (What I fear is that it might reach a point where we can no longer control them, and they will be ones controlling our government because there are people who are already in their payroll),” the senator said.

Gatchalian also expressed suspicion on the recent raid of an alleged POGO hub in Porac, Pampanga where “only” more than 100 foreigners, mostly Chinese nationals, were detained.

The operation was conducted after authorities received reports of scamming activities, torture, kidnapping, and sex trafficking.

According to Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) spokesperson Dr. Winston John Casio, they expected to catch about 1,000 foreigners in the said operation, but admitted to a possible “leak of information.”

Apparently nung nag-file ng search warrant ang PAOCC, merong nag-tip dito sa mga operators. So, ang kutob ko dito hindi lang enforcement agencies, kundi pati judiciary meron na silang mga tao (Apparently when the PAOCC filed a search warrant, someone tipped off the operators. So, my hunch here is not only enforcement agencies, but they already have people in the judiciary),” Gatchalian said.

Marunong ding gumalaw ang mga ito para magkaroon ng mga galamay at ito yung isang ebidensya na meron na silang mga tao sa mga lugar na magbibigay ng tip sa kanila (They also know the moves to expand their network, and this is proof that they already have people in places to tip them off),” he added. (PNA)