Hontiveros urges Marcos to shut down POGO hubs

Sen. Hontiveros delivering her message at the Philippine Independence Ball in New York AJPress Photo by Troi Santos

Labor trafficking, money laundering, national security concerns raised

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros has reiterated the urgent need for President Marcos to close all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hubs due to their significant impact on labor trafficking, money laundering, wage violations, and public safety.

Speaking before the Filipino American Press Club of New York on Sunday, June 9, Hontiveros emphasized the immediate need for executive action against POGO operations throughout the country.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros
AJPress Photo by Momar G. Visaya

Kapag sinabi ni presidente paalisin na yang mga POGO na yan, puwede nang magsimula ang process ngayon din,” Hontiveros stressed.

Hontiveros chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, which is conducting an inquiry into the illegal activities happening in POGO hubs, such as human trafficking, cyber fraud, illegal detention, and abuse.

The senator highlighted that the promises made when the POGOs entered the Philippines eight years ago did not materialize. Instead, they brought a litany of problems including prostitution, illegal recruitment and detention, human trafficking, cyber-scamming, and money laundering. She recently expressed concern over these POGOs having possible connections to surveillance activities and the hacking of government websites.

Hontiveros has been leading a Senate investigation exposing the criminal activities, national security risks, and identity issues surrounding these POGOs, particularly focused on the raided POGO hub in Bamban and its alleged links to Mayor Alice Guo.

“It’s really a cause of concern. Nakapasok na ba ang impluwensiya, pera at kapangyarihan ng POGO sa ating local governments o sa mas mataas pang antas sa ating gobyerno? Kailangan nating malaman yun para mapigilan nating kumalat kung sakaling yun ang ating mapatunayan,” she shared.

Prior to her trip to the United States last week, Hontiveros joined an executive session convened by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality. The executive session included 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.

“After that session, I raised publicly, again, my call to the National Security Council to convene and discuss finally their views if the POGOs themselves are not a national security threat and if they ever make such a finding, for the council to call on the president to ban POGOs already,” she said.

Hontiveros added that they will set another briefing with the AMLC regarding the money laundering aspect of the investigation, particularly illegal revenue streams, before conducting another public hearing where she said they will be able to make public some of the national security inputs they discussed in the executive session.

May mas malilinaw na misteryoso tungkol sa kanya,” she said, referring to Bamban Mayor Alice Guo who is at the center of the preliminary investigation. “In a way, she created her own problem because of her background and her inability to answer simple questions in a simple, direct, and frank way.”

Because of that, more questions were raised and Hontiveros sees that more cases are being prepared by different executive and constitutional bodies of the government against Mayor Guo in the coming days.

Hontiveros was in New York to participate in the 126th Philippine Independence Day celebration and to engage with the Filipino community in the United States. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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