Philippines Cracks Down on Underground POGO Hospitals Linked to Identity Alterations


In the heart of the Philippines, law enforcement has unearthed clandestine medical facilities believed to be linked to the infamous POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operators) industry, an illicit online gambling hub. Reports point to the potential existence of two more such clandestine hospitals.

This bold revelation came on the heels of a gutsy law enforcement raid on a covert hospital operating within an online gambling den in the bustling heart of Pasay City. At this surprising recovery site, investigators found themselves staring at a perplexing assortment of tools and equipment – from dental implants to hair transplant paraphernalia to even skin-whitening solutions.

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It’s easy to underestimate the significance of these seemingly innocuous surgical tools. Yet as Winston John Casino, the articulate spokesperson for the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) pointed out, “If you bring all these things together, you can create an entirely new person out of those.”

It is plausible that these covert hospitals were essentially lifelines for POGO employees facing health issues, who could not access mainstream healthcare due to their illegal status or because they were victims of human trafficking into the Philippines. In a chilling twist, authorities also suspect these underground medical facilities to be advanced hideouts where wanted fugitives acquire physical changes for evading law enforcement.

The POGO – dominated predominantly by Chinese operators – rose to prominence during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. He allowed the online gambling industry to flourish, conditionally keeping it away from Philippine citizens and focusing solely on China, where internet gambling is outlawed.

The baton has now passed to President Bongbong Marcos, who has sworn to bring down the POGOs – several of them notorious for entrapping workers into their scam centers. Only last June, the police liberated 150 Chinese victims from a POGO labyrinth in Porac, Pampanga province, revealing grisly torture equipment in the process.

The situation has seemed critical in light of police data stating over 4,000 crimes committed in connection with POGOs, including murder and abduction, reported between 2017 to mid-last year. “The president does not want the Philippines branded as a ‘scam hub’, and we are resolved to disrupt these illegal activities that victimize countless people worldwide,” Casio declared.

The issue further complicates as authorities probe possible connections between these underground medical centers and instances of convicts transforming appearances to escape justice. One notable instance concerns the arrest of notorious criminal and suspected Chinese Mafia member Andy Chen in December 2022, who reportedly acquired cosmetic surgery to hide his true identity, as well as his ties to human trafficking and the POGO industry.

Casio has credited a watchful informant for the discovery and subsequent busting of the clandestine clinic, where the police apprehended three foreign doctors – two from Vietnam and one from China – along with a Chinese pharmacist and a Vietnamese nurse. None of them were licensed to practice medicine in the Philippines.

Casio warns that there may be bigger, murkier underground hospitals operating in the Metro Manila area and perhaps even across the country. While this revelation marks a significant battle won against such complex organized crime, it also punctuates the protracted war ahead.