Following the raid of a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) hub in Pasay City, lawmakers have launched a larger investigation. Workers at the site reported illegal activities, including forced detention, physical abuse and sexual assault.
According to CNN Philippines, as a result of the raid in late October, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) found hundreds of Filipino and foreign workers onsite at Smart Web Technology Corp. (Smart Web). Of those, two Chinese workers claimed they were being held against their will. Sometimes, said one, they were compelled to work a minimum of 12 hours a day.
Investigators also found physical evidence of torture on the workers’ bodies, and seven Filipina women were reportedly discovered in an “aquarium-style” enclosure where they were viewed by patrons.
Senator Win Gatchalian has demanded a probe of Smart Web for alleged prostitution, kidnapping for ransom and online scams. “It is obvious that organized criminal syndicates are already operating in our country, as evidenced by the human trafficking victims and even the torture chamber,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
Following the raid, Senator Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel expressed concern that Smart Web, an iGaming licensee of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), conducted its criminal business with impunity, under the nose of local police.
In the aftermath, the chief of the Pasay City Police and 26 officers were relieved of their responsibilities, reported the Philippine Inquirer. Philippine National Police spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said Police Director Colonel Froilan Uy, Commander Captain Criz Antonio Cataluña and 25 others face an investigation for possible neglect of duty.
“Pasay police officers were either negligent or complicit in covering up for the POGOs,” said Hontiveros-Baraquel.