PNP told to stop deploying police escorts to POGO officials

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Friday ordered the Philippine National Police to stop the deployment of police to escort officials working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators companies.

“My directive is simple, it should be stopped immediately. Let us stop this for now before we filter the list,” Abalos told reporters in a chance interview at the Senate.

He made the statement after PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. disclosed to lawmakers that they deploy police personnel to protect certain individuals linked to POGO companies.

“The SPG (Security and Protection Group) and our intelligence unit assess whether there are threats to these people, if so, we provide security to them,” Azurin said during the Senate Committee on Finance budget deliberation for the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

He also noted that the same treatment was also provided to the family members of POGO officials.

However, the remarks irked lawmakers, particularly Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who questioned the “special treatment” of these individuals.

“If the Philippines is such a dangerous place for them, then why are they here for business?” Pimentel asked.

“As the chief, how much are you in control of that office? That kind of reasoning is obviously nonsense. What is the relationship of the chief to that office? Is that under your control? Can you replace your judgment with your judgment or are they totally autonomous?” He added.

Likewise, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate panel, stressed that Filipino taxpayers are the ones who are paying for personnel and it should provide security to the locals instead of these foreigners.

For his part, Azurini said he had already issued an order to review the individuals who can be provided with security by the police personnel.

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, proposed to Azurin to just order the halting of deployment of police to POGO officials.

“When the issue is very hot about POGO, you can do it in just one order. ‘Oh PSPG stop providing security to these POGO operators.’ Because if they require much security, it only means they are engaged in a very dangerous business,” Dela Rosa said.

“They are here to engage not on a legal business perhaps they are doing illegal business which is why they need much security. In one order, it can be stopped,” he added.

Dela Rosa also mentioned the complaints of some Filipinos who experienced being prevented from entering public restrooms by security personnel to give way to these foreigners.

After hearing complaints and suggestions from lawmakers, Abalos, who presented the agency’s budget, ordered Azurin to probe such incidents and charge individuals involved in the scheme.

“I’m directing our chief to look into this. Number one, file a case against them, they cannot allow foreigners to do that. We are in the Philippines, it should not be allowed,” he said.

“Get their names and of course, let us give them sanctions. Secondly, let’s stop this practice. Write them a letter,” he added.

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