MANILA - Police on Friday arrested 53 people, including Chinese nationals and Filipinos, for allegedly continuing Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) in Parañaque City despite the coronavirus lockdown.
The suspects- 44 Chinese and 9 Filipinos- were busted at a house on NAIA Road believed to be run as a POGO hub in a police operation launched following reports of citizens who saw a group of armed men in the area.
Upon investigation, authorities found that the POGO was not registered.
Police seized some P1.3 million in cash, 5 pistols, 36 laptops and 17 desktop computers.
The suspects are facing multiple charges, including illegal possession of firearms and breaching quarantine protocols under the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.
POGOs, mostly Chinese-run firms that prompted a flood of Chinese arrivals in the country in recent years, are among businesses covered by shutdown orders under the Luzon-wide lockdown that began on March 17.
The lockdown, set to end on April 30, has been extended in several areas, including Metro Manila, believed to be the epicenter of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chief Andrea Domingo, in a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, recently recommended the resumption of POGO operations despite a Luzon-wide work stoppage for "non-essential" industries.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said that POGOs served as "cash resources" for the government, but that the President has yet to decide if online gambling firms would be allowed to resume operations during the health crisis.
Several senators, however, have decried the plan, saying POGOs are not among essential industries.
Earlier this year, several senators mulled the passage of a measure that would permanently ban POGOs in the Philippines after congressional investigations found that some operators have been bribing immigration officials to smuggle workers into the country.
POGOs have also been linked to criminality, including prostitution.
-- Report from Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News