In the latest hit to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) space in the Philippines, the Philippine News Agency reports a major breakthrough in the fight against human trafficking. Authorities successfully rescued 731 individuals on Saturday who were allegedly forced into sex trafficking operations at an illegal POGO.
A view of Pasay City, Philippines from the air. Authorities have dismantled a POGO running a sex trafficking ring in the city. (Image: KMC Savills)
The illegal enterprise was reportedly orchestrated by the return of Smart Web Technology Corp, a company previously licensed as a POGO. The clandestine activities were brought to light when police raided a six-story building in Pasay City, situated close to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The building, which served as the epicenter of this illicit operation, was a sophisticated setup, including nine karaoke rooms, a fully equipped pharmacy with a resident doctor, and even a restaurant. The shocking discovery underscores the magnitude of the trafficking ring, revealing a complex network that exploited its victims under the guise of legitimate businesses.
PAGCOR Lends a Hand
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) played a crucial role in facilitating the raid. This included overcoming obstacles posed by private security during previous attempted visits. This rescue operation highlights the collaborative efforts of law enforcement and regulatory bodies to combat criminal activities associated with the online gaming industry.
Smart Web Technology Corp, initially a licensed POGO, had its license revoked because of noncompliance with regulations. The organization allegedly continued its illicit operations under a different name following the introduction of PAGCOR’s new Internet Gaming License scheme. The ability to fly under the radar allowed the criminal group to continue preying on vulnerable individuals.
The victims lived in deplorable conditions, and their rescue marks a significant victory for anti-trafficking efforts in the country. Authorities are now working to provide the necessary support and rehabilitation services to help the survivors overcome the ordeal.
The revelation of Smart Web Technology Corp’s ability to operate under different guises raises questions about the effectiveness of regulatory measures in the Philippines. Authorities and regulatory bodies must now reevaluate and strengthen their mechanisms to prevent such entities from exploiting legal loopholes.
The case also emphasizes the importance of international cooperation in addressing transnational crimes. Collaborative efforts between the Philippines and other nations will be essential to dismantling similar criminal networks operating across borders.
More POGO Damage
In the aftermath of the rescue, there is a growing call for a complete review of POGOs and licensing procedures. Many opponents say stricter oversight and enforcement mechanisms are needed to prevent the recurrence of human trafficking.
There have already been calls for the dismantling of all POGO activity in the country. This is in addition to a push for a complete ban on online gambling. The campaign is currently under debate in Congress, and has recently received more support from various civic and police organizations.
As investigations into POGO corruption continue, the Philippine government will have to take swift and decisive action. It will also have to implement more robust measures to safeguard against the resurgence of illegal players.
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