MANILA, Philippines, March 2 ------ The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is keeping tabs on Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) firms for possible involvement in the illegal drug trade. PDEA director general Aaron Aquino over the weekend said the agency is closely monitoring workers at POGOs to determine if some are involved in illegal drugs. He clarified they have yet to monitor drug-related activities at POGO companies but said they are not taking any chances.
“So far there are no reported transactions but the PDEA will continuously monitor if POGOs are involved in illegal drug activities,” Aquino said in a text message. Several Chinese nationals have been arrested mostly for kidnap-for-ransom activities which target their compatriots working at POGO firms and playing at casinos. Maj. Ronaldo Lumactod, spokesman for the police Anti-Kidnapping Group, said they recorded nine cases of POGO-related abductions in 2019 where 13 have been victimized, while in 2018 there were no cases.
Casino-related kidnappings, meanwhile, increased by 137.5 percent to 38 in 2019, from 16 in 2018. The number of victims also increased from 17 to 42. Lumactod said they have yet to encounter reports of Chinese criminal syndicates at POGO firms that are also dabbling in illegal drugs.