Press Release
October 29, 2023

Gatchalian's urgent plea to the President: Ban POGOs amid shocking sex slavery discovery

Senator Win Gatchalian is urgently pleading with President Bongbong Marcos for the complete and immediate banning of Philippine Overseas Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the wake of a shocking revelation exposing a POGO hub's involvement in prostitution.

"This is probably the worst that POGOs have ever been. It's profoundly disturbing. What we're witnessing here is essentially a self-contained hub for sexual exploitation and slavery," emphasized Gatchalian.

"This incident provides stark confirmation of the concerns we've voiced for quite some time now - that criminal activities associated with POGOs will continue to intensify unless we shut down the entire industry," he added.

Following the raid, authorities said seven trafficked Filipinas were discovered in an "aquarium-style" viewing room where customers can allegedly choose women to hire. This room was located next to a massage parlor/spa offering illicit services. Each room had a "menu" written in Chinese, allowing clients to choose from different sexual services. Condoms and other sex paraphernalia were also recovered during the raid.

It appears that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) issued an internet gaming license to Smart Web Technology Corporation, located in a six-story building along Williams Street in Pasay City, without conducting a thorough inspection. Philippine National Police (PNP) authorities said the company continued its operations even after PAGCOR revoked its license under a different name in September this year, according to Gatchalian. He added that this demonstrates that PAGCOR has been ineffective in regulating online gaming and gambling operations in the country.

In an earlier bid to improve the regulation of POGOs, PAGCOR has invalidated all POGO licenses as of September this year. In POGO's place, IGLs were issued. PAGCOR earlier said a complete list of IGL licensees will be released by the end of the month.

More than seven hundred victims, Filipinos and foreign workers, were discovered during the Friday raid. Citing updates from police authorities, Gatchalian said inquest proceedings are currently ongoing. As of press time, 15 individuals are poised to face human trafficking and prostitution charges.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Gatchalian has been pressing for the expulsion of POGO operators in the country, citing rising criminal activities attributed to the industry including human trafficking, forcible abduction, homicide, illegal detention, kidnapping-for-ransom, theft, robbery-extortion, serious physical injuries, swindling, grave coercion, investment scam, cryptocurrency scam, love scam, and the most recent addition being prostitution.

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