Philippines police rescue nearly 3,000 Asians, Africans from illegal gaming operations

Jeoffrey Maitem
Philippines police rescue nearly 3,000 Asians, Africans from illegal gaming operations This handout photo taken on June 27, 2023 and released on June 28 by the Philippine National Police’s anti-cybercrime group shows police officials (left) at work while other people crouch on the floor of an office following a police raid on the premises in Las Piñas, Metro Manila.
[Handout/Philippine National Police/AFP]

Philippine security forces have rescued nearly 3,000 people from a slew of Asian and African nations during a massive raid on illegal gambling operations, with officials saying Wednesday that these migrants were duped into working in the fraudulent offshore operations.

The workers – most of them Filipinos, with many others from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries – were found when police commandos, armed with warrants, simultaneously raided seven buildings in Las Piñas, Metro Manila, on Tuesday.

The targets of the raid, the owners of a gaming hub, were identified as Quiha Lu, Liangfei Chen, Jimmy Lin, and Abbey Ng. Police said these suspects – all believed to be Chinese – were found to have violated the country’s anti-trafficking in persons law.

Capt. Michelle Sabino, a spokeswoman for the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group, said the workers were promised work at an online casino.

“The job posting lured them into this work. They’re the ones assisting in online gaming,” Sabino told reporters on Wednesday.

Of the workers rescued, 1,528 were Filipinos trafficked from other parts of the country; there were also 600 Chinese, 183 Vietnamese, 137 Indonesians, 134 Malaysians, 81 Thais, and 21 Taiwanese; the rest were from Nigeria, Singapore, Myanmar, Yemen, Pakistan, South Africa, India, Somalia, Sudan, Cameroon, and Iran, a police report said.

Col. Jean Fajardo, national police spokesperson, said that only two of the seven buildings they raided had the relevant license to operate as offshore gaming establishments.

“We received information on the presence of foreigners in one of the buildings,” Fajardo told reporters.

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, or POGOs as they are more popularly called, entered the country in 2016 at the start of the term of then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and have flourished due to loose gaming laws here. 

Such operations cater largely to customers in mainland China, where gambling for money is banned. At their peak, POGOs hired more than 300,000 Chinese workers and brought them to the Philippines.


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