House probe on ‘POGO’ workers’ drug links urged

August 04, 2020

A HOUSE leader on Tuesday sought a congressional probe on the alleged links to illegal drugs of some Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers inside the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone in Olongapo City where firms enjoy preferential tax treatment.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, made the call after six Chinese nationals were caught in a dragnet by a composite government law enforcement team for possession of one kilo of shabu worth P6.8 million while about to exit at the Tipo Gate of the freeport last July 30.

The arrested suspects, who are believed workers seen frequently with their vehicles at the POGO area at Crown Peak, in Cubi, were identified as Jiang Peng, Liu Qiao Zhi, Huang Du, Chen Pingxing, Xia Fayong and Fan Sheng Jian.

“While I cannot yet determine if they were really Subic POGO workers, it has been established and recorded that the suspects on board their vehicles had been frequently monitored to be frequenting and entering at least two units at the POGO compound at Crown Peak in Subic,” he

Apprehended while on board a Nissan X-Trail ((XTP-513) in the guise of having committed traffic violations, the suspects yielded a Cal. 45 pistol with seven live bullets, mobile phones, IDs, wallets and passports.

Barbers said the lawmen involved in the operation include agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA-NCR), Intelligence Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the local police, indicating the immensity of the drug-sting operation.

“The involvement of PDEA-NCR, the ISAFP and NICA in this drug sting operation indicate they were after big-time drug dealers with huge drugs shipment. Hindi siguro sasama pa ang ISAFP at NICA sa ops ng PDEA-NCR kung paisa-isang kilo lang ang lakad na ito,” he said.

“And what is worrisome and suspicious is that only one kilo of shabu was seized or ‘declared’ to have been seized from the suspects.

This, despite na malakas na ugong sa mga kwentuhan sa Subic na more than 300 kilos ng shabu ang nakuha sa mga suspects,” he added.

Barbers said there were also reports that the composite government team failed to capture and apprehend other cohorts of the arrested suspects who were on board a Toyota Alphard and Hi-Ace vans.

“Kung totoong minonitor at pinostehan in a period of time ng ating mga anti-drug at intel agents and mga suspects, sigurado na malalaman nila kung sino-sino ang mga ito at ang kanilang mga kasabwat, pati na mga sasakyan na gamit nila. Ang problema, nakalusot daw sa dragnet nila ang mga suspects na nasa Toyota Alphard at Hi-Ace vans. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Nakalusot ba o pinalusot?” he said.

Some POGOs have registered their firms inside the Subic Freeport Zone to enjoy preferential tax treatment. But they later establish the bulk
of their operations in Metro Manila, particularly in Makati, Paranaque, Quezon City and Paranaque, to skirt payment of right amount of taxes. Said gaming firms, manned mostly by Chinese workers, has created social tension with Filipinos and bred crime, including fraud, illegal drugs trafficking, kidnap- for-ransom, human trafficking and prostitution catering to the workers, among others.