DoJ junks raps vs POGO service provider

State prosecutors, though, said it was only the recruiter ‘Christine’ who advertised, interviewed and recruited the workers, most of whom are Burmese nationals

The Department of Justice on Wednesday revealed that human trafficking charges filed by the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center against MOA Cloudzone Corp. — a Pasay-based Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators service provider — were dismissed by its panel of prosecutors.

MCZ corporate counsel Ronald Aala disclosed that the four-man panel of DoJ prosecutors found no probable cause or any evidence of the firm’s involvement in the alleged trafficking of POGO workers.

The PNP-WCPC, according to the panel of prosecutors, claimed that MCZ and two other firms were employers of the complainants who were allegedly recruited and forced to work against their will by a certain “Cristine Chue Ni Quian.”

State prosecutors, though, said it was only the recruiter “Christine” who advertised, interviewed and recruited the workers, most of whom are Burmese nationals.

The panel said PNP’s claim that the workers were employees of MCZ and the two other companies that was included in the charge sheet “was never substantiated.”

They also found no evidence that would lead to a determination that there was conspiracy among the respondents, and nothing on record that demonstrates any express agreement among them to commit a crime or to illegally traffic the complainants.

“Basic rule is that mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. Charges based on suspicion and speculation likewise cannot be given credence,” the panel said.

With this reason, state prosecutors ordered the filing of criminal charges against “Christine” for syndicated trafficking and dismissed the charges against all other respondents namely Hu Xian Jie, Chue Thiri Ngone, Aient Shwe Yi Htut, and Sai Sai Kyein.

In other developments, at least 11,000 Filipino workers will be losing their jobs with the planned closure of the POGO industry, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said in a radio interview on Wednesday.

Laguesma’s remarks come after proposals from lawmakers to shut down the sector arose due to alleged prevalence of kidnapping and other crimes associated with the said establishments, as well as reported unsafe labor practices, despite fears of losing huge amounts of economic investments.

“Based on reports from our regional directors whose areas have POGO operations, there are more or less 11,000 workers, with majority categorized under blue collar workers, including utility drivers and security guards,” Laguesma said, clarifying that the figure only refers to those employed in legitimate POGOs and that the numbers could be much higher in updated reports from Labor offices.

Laguesma said that they are aiming to provide assistance and intervention to those who will possibly be displaced from the closure of POGO establishments.

These include job matching with existing vacancies identified by the Public Employment Service Office and skills training through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
With Dan Navarro

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