Massive Raid Frees 731 Workers from Controversial Philippines Operation

A large-scale operation headed by the Department of Justice and the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC) in the Philippines resulted in the release of 731 laborers from a building on Williams Street in Pasay City. Along with seven Filipinos and other laborers from other foreign nations, the majority of the workers were of Chinese descent.

Judge Maricris Pahate-Felixs of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 35 issued a search order that set the mission in motion and named the operators as Caic and Tein. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) canceled the licenses of two Philippine Overseas Gaming Operation (POGO) businesses, including Smart Web, which these operators were associated with.

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Remarkably, the POGO organization went on with its business, even obtaining a new PAGCOR Internet Gaming License (IGL) and operating under a new name. Due to on-site guards who impeded the inspection, PAGCOR’s team was unable to do a comprehensive examination, according to a subsequent audit by PAOCC.

Calls for Stringent Action

Senator Joel Villanueva called for a complete prohibition on enterprises associated with illicit activity and questioned how these organizations continued to provide their services after their permits were canceled.

The head of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Sherwin Gatchalian, expressed worries about the industry’s apparent connections to sex trafficking and sex slavery and suggested the immediate deportation of POGOs from the Philippines. Gatchalian underlined that illicit activity was being made worse by PAGCOR’s inadequate control.

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According to police data, during the first half of 2023, more than 4,000 POGO-related crimes—including kidnappings and human trafficking—were recorded. Of the 50,000 countrywide police operations that took place during that time, 41,000 arrests linked to illicit gambling were made by law enforcement officials.

Next up is an on-site inquest hearing, according to a statement from PAOCC, which is motivated by “abundance of evidence pointing to sex trafficking on said site.” Two Chinese laborers, S.N. (27), and L.H.Y. (22), contacted government agents during the raid, claiming they had been detained against their will and displaying physical symptoms of abuse.

L.H.Y. stated he had been imprisoned against his will for more than a year, working fifteen hours a day, whereas S.N. said he had been abducted and sold five months earlier.

The rescue effort revealed a startling discovery: 731 workers were found on the second story of the building, inside a room that looked like an aquarium-style viewing chamber and was a portion of a massage parlor.

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During the operation, six people were taken into custody by the authorities on allegations of torture and human trafficking. Due to the facility’s facilitation of human trafficking, PAOCC declared that it will advocate for the interim IGL operator license of Smart Web Technology Corp. to be revoked.

Smart Web is likely to have the facility and its related assets blocked and confiscated since they are considered “illegal gains.”

1,245 people were arrested as a result of a statewide crackdown on illicit cockfighting gambling that was started by the national police in August.

By raiding a suspected enterprise in Las Piñas City, Metro Manila, PAGCOR said in July that it was determined to crack down on offshore gaming service providers that had connections to human trafficking and cryptocurrency frauds.

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