THE PRESIDENTIAL Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said on Sunday that multi-agency investigations are underway to determine the alleged involvement of a mayor in Tarlac in the illegal Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) raided last month.

“We’ve got documents from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, electric cooperative, housekeeping and manpower providers. All of these are addressed to the mayor. The DoJ (Department of Justice), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) are taking a look at how connected they are,” PAOCC Spokesperson Winston John R. Casio told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a media forum on Sunday.

“At this point, it’s still allegations until we have probable cause to be able to charge the mayor. We don’t have a probable cause at this point, only conjectures and documentary connections. We need to verify those,” he added, noting that he expects the completion of the investigation in two weeks. 

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian last month accused a Tarlac mayor of illegal POGO connections, now called International Gaming Licensees (IGL), after obtaining documents from the raid of a Sangguniang Bayan (SB) resolution on September 2020; a car registered under the mayor’s name; and a statement of account from Tarlac Electric Corporation II with an electric bill of P15.11 million from September 2023 to February 2024.

PAOCC Undersecretary and Executive Director Gilbert DC Cruz said they are targeting bigger operators as the government is more steadfast in tracking illegal operations.

“We are being talked about outside [the country] because of these illegal scammers. The law enforcement in the Philippines is more serious in tracking down POGOs,” he said in Filipino.

A chunk of detained operators is Chinese, followed by Vietnamese.

Mr. Cruz said they are being detained “humanely” or deported to China or Vietnam, where they’re treated as criminals.

The PAOCC investigated around 100,000 cybercrimes committed last year, more than traditional crimes, such as robbery, rape, theft, and murder.

“These scammers don’t use the money they earn to build our economy; they’re not helping us build our country’s image. They’re staining our image as the biggest POGO hub operator, not just in Asia, but maybe in the entire world,” Mr. Cruz said. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana