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POGO Operations: National Security Concern or Trojan Horse?

The Director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Ricardo de Leon, has declared that the organization is looking into a number of allegations, one of which is that Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) might be China’s “Trojan horse,” a reference to the Greek mythology that describes how Troy fell.

“We continue to validate the ‘Trojan horse’ angle. We cannot confirm its capability yet,” De Leon explained.

Devices with foreign characters found during a POGO operation in Pasay City are suspected of being utilized for direct connection with China, according to analysts. According to De Leon, forensic analysis is being done on this equipment as well as other pieces of evidence.

“NICA is coordinating with intelligence counterparts in other countries for expert intervention,” said De Leon.

Declaring whether or not the illicit POGO hub in Pampanga is engaged in espionage operations is premature, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Col. Jean Fajardo, the PNP Chief Information Officer, stated that investigators have not yet discovered proof that anyone within the raided complex was eavesdropping on Philippine government structures. Many of the devices, including cellphones, computers, and other devices, that were taken from the POGO hub are being examined since authorities still require a court order to access computer data.

Along with these discoveries, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) handgun, bullets, a Chinese military sergeant badge, and things resembling uniforms were also found by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission. Finding out how these outfits are related to the Chinese military is the task of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

According to Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the presence of Chinese military uniforms is probably not a sign of genuine military preparation but rather a set piece for illegal online transactions. Due to their scarcity, PLA uniforms appear to have been used more often for dishonest purposes.

Though they do not now pose a threat to national security, POGOs remain a concern, according to Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr.

“The concern is to halt these syndicated criminal activities that undermine our financial stability, country ratings, and corrupt our society,” Teodoro told reporters Wednesday.

De Leon emphasized that lawmakers make the choice to forbid or restrict POGO operations.

“We urge policymakers to review POGO. Are we winning or losing this battle as it affects our youth? Policymakers make the laws. We provide our leaders with the gathered inputs,” De Leon said.

Although Speaker Martin Romualdez has expressed openness to POGOs operating in the country, he has emphasized the need for full compliance with all Philippine regulations.

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