The Philippine Online Gaming Operator (POGO) industry continues to be embroiled in scandal, leading to increased scrutiny of foreign nationals working in the country. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced that it is conducting a comprehensive review of the more than 42,000 foreign individuals employed by POGOs, specifically focusing on their Alien Employment Permits (AEPs).
Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez emphasized that the DOLE is prepared to take action against any foreign worker found to be involved in illegal activities, including potentially canceling or revoking their AEPs and, in more serious cases, pursuing criminal charges. This move comes after recent raids on POGO establishments in Parañaque City and Pasay City revealed a lack of operational licenses and allegations of involvement in illicit activities such as sex trafficking and online scams.
The AEP, equivalent to a work visa in the US, is a crucial permit for nonresident individuals seeking employment in the Philippines. However, the recent raids raised concerns about the possible illegal granting of AEPs, leading to suspicions that some individuals may have obtained Philippine passports under false pretenses, posing potential security risks to the country.
The crackdown on illegal POGOs comes as the industry continues to be plagued by criminal activity. Recent reports revealed an incident in Pampanga where two individuals from China and Malaysia were killed, and another Chinese national sustained severe gunshot wounds, in what authorities believe was a kidnapping attempt related to POGO activities. In another case, police arrested five individuals suspected of working for an illegal POGO, including a minor who claimed to have been coerced into carrying a firearm by the adults.
The Philippine government has been working to eliminate unlawful gaming operators in an effort to improve its international reputation. However, the ongoing POGO-related crimes and the potential involvement of foreign nationals have heightened concerns about national security and the need for stricter oversight of foreign workers in the country.