Treñas takes firm stand against illegal POGOs

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

In a decisive move to uphold public safety and order, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has declared a strong position against Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) illegally operating in the city.

Treñas signed an executive order (EO) on Monday, July 8, emphasizing that “it is the declared policy of the city to denounce any illegal POGOs and their activities within the city.”

The mayor stressed that his administration is firm in its mandate to promote the general welfare of its people, improve public morals, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of the residents.

The EO has directed the City Treasurer’s Office, the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotion Office, the Local Economic Enterprise Office, and the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to investigate suspected POGO establishments.

The investigation includes operations lacking regulatory approval and those registered under different business lines.

Treñas was set to meet with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday, July 11, but the scheduled meeting was postponed due to his travel to Metro Manila to meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

On Monday, July 8, the City Council conducted a committee hearing into the alleged illegal activities among foreign nationals, including gambling, human trafficking, and cyber scams.

The BI clarified during the committee hearing that it only takes action when complaints are filed and cannot conduct its own investigations independently.

Reynaldo Laguardia Jr., head of the Regional Intelligence Operating Unit of BI-Iloilo, explained that they are unable to approach foreigners for investigations due to the “no contact” policy enforced by their office.

Laguardia emphasized that they can only begin intelligence gathering and investigations once a complaint is received. He further clarified that their focus is on responding to complaints and addressing violations of immigration laws.

However, when Councilor Sedfrey Cabaluna asked whether there were any operations of POGOs in the city, Laguardia could not directly confirm the absence of such operations but noted that they are “under investigation.”

The ICPO, on the other hand, reported that there are currently no monitored “organized activities” involving foreign nationals.

“There are no organized activities perpetrated by foreign nationals but we are not discounting the possibility of any activities by any foreign nationals, especially with POGOs,” said ICPO head Col. Joeresty P. Coronica.

Coronica also noted that the BI has not requested police assistance concerning illegal immigrants or the arrest and investigation of foreign nationals.

He mentioned that the ICPO sought BI’s assistance when they arrested 17 Chinese nationals in the Jaro district due to cybersex and human trafficking activities in November last year.

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