Senator Gatchalian Suspects Immigration Officials Conspired with Online Gambling Fugitives
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Last Updated:27 March 2024

Senator Gatchalian

Philippine Senator Gatchalian raised the alarming notion on March 26 that immigration officials may be colluding with foreign fugitives recently arrested at online gambling centers. This concern arises in his call for a total ban on online gambling in the Philippines.

In a recent raid on an online gaming center in Banwan City, Philippines, 500 foreigners were arrested, one of whom was Zhang Jiawei, allegedly a foreign fugitive. Zhang Qiaowei pointed out that after verification, the Immigration Bureau found that Zhang Jiawei was marked as a fugitive in Taiwan.

Gatchalian added that the Taiwanese is currently detained by the Immigration Bureau and is preparing to deport him. "How did these wanted individuals enter the Philippines? Were they able to pass through our system, or were our immigration officials allowing their entry?" he said in a statement.

Gatchalian further pointed out that it is not uncommon for foreign employees to be found to be fugitives in recent raids on online gambling centers, suggesting that they may be part of an organized crime gang. He expressed incredulity that the Immigration Bureau failed to detect the entry of these fugitives, and pointed out that there may be people colluding with the fugitives.

In addition to the fugitives found in recent raids, Gatchalian also mentioned at least seven foreign fugitives captured in a raid in Las Piñas in June 2023, including four mainland Chinese and three Taiwanese. He also mentioned the 17 foreign fugitives discovered in a raid in the Clark Special Economic Zone in May last year.

Gatchalian also pointed to a situation known as "toffee bribery," in which foreigners offer money to obtain unimpeded customs clearance, often in the form of white paper rolled into what looks like toffee. He stressed that immigration officials should implement the same strict procedures to prevent criminals from entering the Philippines.

In March last year, Gatchalian issued a report as chairman of the Senate Committee on Tax Sources, calling on the Marcos administration to completely ban online gambling. His report was submitted to the full Senate after the Revenue Committee held a series of hearings to assess the socio-economic impact of the POGO industry.

"It is up to the executive branch to decide whether to ban online gambling, so I have submitted the report to Malacañang," Gatchalian said.


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