THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) will continue its probe into Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) that have recently been linked to various cases of human trafficking and exploitation, an official said on Monday.

Justice Undersecretary-in-Charge of the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) Nicholas Felix L. Ty told state television PTV 4 that human trafficking is a prevailing issue concerning POGOs, in addition to problems such as scamming, kidnapping, and torture.

“We cannot deny that there are indeed illegal POGOs where rumored illegal activities take place,” he said in Filipino. “The thousands of victims we rescue there are proof of that. With our ongoing operations against POGOs, we aim to save even more victims.”

In the interview, the undersecretary acknowledged studies revealing that the Philippines is one of the global hotspots for online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. He said poverty, proficiency in the English language, and access to technology, contributed to the rising cases of online exploitation.

The official said the department has requested Congress to augment the funds allocated for the fight against human trafficking, pointing out that “for the year 2023, the budget initially given to us [DoJ] was P99 million, but it was later slashed to P79 million,” as expressed in mixed English and Filipino.

Meanwhile, the justice department inaugurated its Human Rights Office, and Gender and Development Special Protection Office on Monday, aligning with the National Human Rights Consciousness Week in the country. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla stated in his speech, “There are now dedicated offices meant to realize the vision of a more humane and human rights-centric justice system that shall deliver ‘real justice in real time.” — Jomel R. Paguian