MANILA -- Seventeen foreign fugitives have been found to be hiding in the Philippines, particularly at Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in Clark, Pampanga and Las Piñas City, the Philippine National Police -Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) said Wednesday.
Nine of the fugitives were discovered to be employed in Sun Valley Clark, while the 8 were working in a POGO in Almanza Uno, Las Piñas City.
PNP-ACG director, Brig. Gen. Sidney Hernia did not disclose the nationalities of the 17 fugitives.
“These are foreigners who have pending cases in their respective countries. They have valid warrants of arrest... some of the crimes, there were economic crimes, and also, fraud,” Hernia told a Senate panel.
Despite the identification, the fugitives were turned over to their embassies, subject to immediate deportation.
They were not detained, Hernia said.
“We have not filed any cases against them. First of all, we don’t have any witnesses that pinpoint them as a suspect. So, we consider some, or all of them, as victims because we don’t have evidence that would pin them down in this operation,” Hernia said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian meantime pressed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) regarding its policy on POGOs that bring thousands of human trafficking victims.
“Despite the 4,000 human trafficking victims, PAGCOR will still support POGO operations in the country?” Gatchalian asked.
“While it is in existence, the goal of PAGCOR is to regulate it. But we will respect po if the decision of the Legislature and the Executive department is to outlaw, to not allow the operations of POGOs anymore, we will support that po,” PAGCOR Assistant Vice President Jessa Mariz Fernandez said.
PAGCOR now only gives probationary status to POGO license holders, and those companies which will be found not shaping up will be totally denied of license and the working visa of their workers will be cancelled, Fernandez said.
Prior to the hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveos reported a freshly-concluded POGO raid conducted by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) earlier in the day.
“A few hours ago, while we were all asleep, the men and women of the IACAT conducted a successful raid in a POGO in Pasay City," she said.
According to IACAT Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty, they have noted that in their two recent raids, majority of the POGO workers are Filipinos.
Some senators, led by Gatchalian, are pushing to ban POGOs in the Philippines, citing its alleged links to crimes as well as its "social costs."