But a Philippine military colonel rejected those concerns.

“The limited number of PLA [People’s Liberation Army] uniforms found suggests they are more indicative of use in deceptive activities rather than any preparation for an invasion,” Colonel Francel Padilla said on Tuesday.

Official PLA uniforms. The uniforms found in the Pogo raid were likely props, a Philippine military official said. Photo: May Tse

Padilla added the perpetrators may have deployed the attires as props to carry out their illicit dealings that included kidnapping and love scams inside the building in Porac.

The city’s police chief was sacked for failing to detect the illegal business.

The Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission, which conducted the raid, said the agency would investigate if there were Chinese military personnel in the Philippines posing as Pogo workers.

Porac Mayor Jaime Capil denied claims the firm operated with his blessings, saying “we don’t tolerate illegal activities in our town”, GMA News reported.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the uniforms showed Pogos could attract “external forces” who want to destabilise government organisations and underscored the need for outlawing the crime-plagued industry.

Lawmaker Risa Hontiveros agreed and urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr to impose a “total ban” on Pogos.

Pogos have now evolved into a breeding ground for crime

Risa Hontiveros, Philippine lawmaker

“Pogos have now evolved into a breeding ground for crime and a national security threat,” Hontiveros said.

Gatchalian and a group of legislators have filed bills in the senate and the House of Representatives seeking to banish Pogos from the country.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel said there was no reason to panic, as the uniforms could be a “collection” of one of the Chinese employees working at the building.

The Pogo sector emerged in the Philippines in 2016 and grew exponentially as operators capitalised on the country’s liberal gaming laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned.


The dark world of Asia’s online casino industry

The dark world of Asia’s online casino industry

At their peak, Pogos employed more than 300,000 Chinese workers, but the pandemic, higher taxes and enforcement blitz have forced many to operate elsewhere.

Beijing has repeatedly warned Chinese nationals not to work in Pogos in the Philippines, which have brought a spate of crime, including cryptocurrency scam, kidnapping and murder.

According to police data, more than 4,000 Pogo-linked crimes, including kidnapping and human trafficking, were reported from January 2017 to the first half of last year.