POGO security guard arrested for involvement in kidnapping of 2 Chinese nationals

Maris Federez   •   December 10, 2019   •   1165

MANILA, Philippines— The Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) on Tuesday (Dec. 10) arrested a Filipino security guard involved in the kidnapping of two Chinese nationals in Las Piñas City.

The suspect, named Saturnino Matias, is a security guard in a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) where the mastermind of the kidnapping identified as Michael Chan is purportedly working.

Authorities found out about the kidnapping incident when another Chinese national who had also been abducted was eventually released after paying a ransom of 30,000 Renminbi or an equivalent of over Php 200,000.

The police, however, are looking into robbery as a motive for the alleged kidnapping of the two Chinese nationals.

“According sa interview dun sa dalawang victim natin, naglalakad lang sila sa along Alabang nung November 26. So bale, seven days na silang naka-stay dun sa room na ‘yun […] Allegedly, may utang itong dalawa na ‘to. Nagnakaw daw sila,” PNP-AKG spokesperson PLtCol. Joel Saliba  said.

The suspect, meanwhile, denied knowing that the two Chinese nationals he was guarding were victims of kidnap-for-ransom.

“Inosente po ako. Wala po akong alam diyan kasi Chinese po ang usapan nila, nagtatawanan pa sila eh. Hindi ko alam na ganito pala ‘yun,” Matias said.

He will be charged with kidnapping for ransom with serious illegal detention.

The AKG said the two are now added to the six POGO-related kidnapping cases recorded this year.

Meanwhile, the PNP-AKG will conduct a separate investigation on the alleged abduction of a female Chinese national in Makati on Monday (Dec. 9) night.

The AKG said they have not received any complaint from the relatives of the victim who the Makati City Police said is also an employee of a POGO company.

Police are also looking into unpaid loans as an angle on the case.

Former PNP chief Senator Ronald Bato Dela Rosa said authorities had been receiving reports of kidnapping incidents involving Chinese nationals even during his time.

He said the presence of POGOs in the country must not be singled out as the reason behind these incidents.

He added that even if Filipinos are not involved, authorities must still act on these cases.

“Kung yan ay kidnapping for ransom na victimizing wealthy Filipino businessmen or kahit sinong ordinaryong Pilipino […] cause of concern yan ng lahat ng mga Pilipino dito. Pero sila sila mga Intsik nagkikidnapan. Meron bang Pilipinong kinidnap ng Chinese? Wala pa naman. But still, it’s not a crime and should be stopped,” Dela Rosa said. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

2 Chinese nationals nabbed for alleged kidnapping

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 12, 2020

Operatives from the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping group have arrested two Chinese nationals for allegedly kidnapping their fellow citizen.

Authorities identified the suspects as Weng Zhiting and Cheng Guo. Their victims were identified as Jiang Xiao Hao and Li Weizu.

The PNP-AKG conducted an operation in BF Resort Village in Las Piñas City on August 9 after receiving information from Jiang Xiao Hao’s wife that the suspects were demanding P3.5 million in exchange for his release.

AKG Luzon Field Unit Chief Col. Villafor Bannawagan said the suspects will face kidnapping for ransom charges while authorities continue to hunt down the suspects’ five other cohorts. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Senate probe into PAGCOR’s alleged lobby for POGO’s quarantine exception sought

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros are calling on their fellow lawmakers to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation into the alleged lobbying of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to exclude Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the COVID-19 quarantine.

In a joint statement, Pangilinan and Hontiveros said they have recently filed Senate Resolution 396 after PAGCOR allowed POGOs to resume partial operations, subject to strict conditions, purportedly to boost government revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators said that the gaming regulator’s “actuations in lobbying for an exception in favor of the POGO industry threaten to unduly put the health and well-being of the Filipino people at risk by undermining the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).”

“Even going by the official estimate, allowing more than 50,000 workers in the online gambling industry to return to work represents a substantial exception to the ECQ rules,” they said.

PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo earlier argued that licensed POGOs should be allowed to resume operations as these are part of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.

BPOs have been allowed to operate amid the quarantine period.

Domingo earlier assured that before POGOs were allowed to resume partial operations, they would have to meet safety and health requirements.

But Pangilinan and Hontiveros both expressed apprehension that the partial reopening of POGO operations could “reverse the efforts put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19”as there is no assurance that POGOS will follow the Department of Health’s guidelines on physical distancing, wearing of masks, and frequent handwashing and sanitation.”

The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) have also rejected that POGOs are part of the BPO industry, citing four key differences:

  • BPO companies are registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) or the Board of Investments, while POGOs are registered with PAGCOR,
  • the offshoring nature of POGOs are allegedly because they are unable to practice their betting or gambling functions in their respective shores,
  • IT-enabled jobs BPO companies create are of much higher value, requiring a range of technical, domain, and soft skills, and
  • BPOs come to the Philippines to leverage off the country’s human capital, like strong English and technical skills, customer service orientation, malasakit, and ability to adapt to foreign cultures. On the other hand, majority of POGO staffing comes from foreign labor brought into the country to support their operations.

According to IBPAP, POGOs are not part of the annual IT-BPO Headcount and Revenue report, which in 2019 ended with 1.3 million direct employees and $26.3 billion in revenues, the senators said.

PAGCOR also argued that revenues from POGO operations can be a significant source of funds for the government’s COVID-19 response.

It also said that operators are ordered to pay all tax obligations up to March 2020 before they will be allowed to resume operations and only registered workers cleared in COVID-19 rapid tests to report back to work.

But Hontiveros and Pangilinan pointed out that during a Senate hearing in February 2020,

the Bureau of Internal Revenue revealed that POGOs failed to pay the government an estimated P50 billion in withholding and franchise taxes in 2019.

The senators said the uncollected taxes of POGOs could be a source of additional government funds for COVID-19 response.

“[But these] taxes need to be collected regardless of the industry’s status of operations during the community quarantine,” they said.

The senators also pointed out that the resumption of POGO operations will have minimal impact on the country’s economy.

They cited records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showing that the industry only accounts for 0.04% of the domestic economy.

Earlier this week, a group of House lawmakers filed a bill seeking to have POGOs declared illegal by prohibiting the operations of any offshore gaming by any means or device within Philippine territory.

Malacañang denies ‘favoritism’ claims in partial resumption of POGO ops

Marje Pelayo   •   May 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The national government has recently allowed partial resumption of operations for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the country despite the prevailing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Malacañang has been accused of favoritism over its decision but Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has long been allowed to partially operate and that covers the POGO industry. 

He added that the decision as to which industry will be allowed partial opening depends on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) especially when POGOs do not have liabilities such as tax issues to settle.

Wala pong favoritism diyan, [There is no favoritism here,]” Roque said.

“On the contrary, the equal protection clause that provides that all those similarly situated must be treated alike so dahil isang klase ng BPO ang POGO, kinakailangan mapabuksan din sila [and so, since POGO is a type of BPO, they should be allowed to open] be it ECQ or GCQ,” he added.

But the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) countered this claim, saying POGOs cannot be considered as part of the BPO sector.

“The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) would like to have it clarified that as far as the IT-BPM industry is concerned, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs, as they are commonly called, cannot be considered as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO),” said IBPAP president and CEO Rey Untal on Saturday..

Untal said though BPOs and POGOs may have similarity in the nature of operation which is offshore, he said POGOs primarily do so because they are unable to practice their gambling functions in their own shores.

“BPOs come to the Philippines to leverage off our human capital, i.e. our strong English and technical skills, customer service orientation, malasakit, and ability to adapt to foreign cultures,” Untal said.

“This, in turn, has directly benefited millions of Filipinos by providing them with better employment opportunities throughout the years,” he added.

IBPAP also stressed that BPO operations are regulated by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) while POGOs are only monitored by PAGCOR.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, for his part, expressed support for the resumption of POGOs as they are deemed essential as a source of additional funding to support the national government response amid the COVID-19 crisis. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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