by Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star), 12 Feb 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The rise of Philippine offshore gaming operators has not only spawned prostitution dens but also human trafficking as crime syndicates feed the vices of mostly mainland Chinese workers in the POGO industry, an anti-crime advocate said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Teresita Ang-See of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) assailed the rise in crimes attributed to the proliferation of POGOs after a 23-year-old Taiwanese woman surfaced at the Senate yesterday and recounted her ordeal at the hands of her Chinese recruiters, who allegedly trafficked her into working in a POGO.
The Taiwanese, who introduced herself as Lai Yu Cian or Ivy, said she arrived in the Philippines in October on a tourist visa after responding to an offer to work as an administrative assistant in an advertising agency.
“They want me to work for 24 hours, treating me like a slave. I already told them that I wanna go home, I wanna go back to Taiwan but they forced me to work for them. They told me that they have a protector behind them, which are government people,” Lai said at a press conference arranged by Hontiveros.
“My boss threatened me and abused me mentally and physically,” she said of the treatment she endured whenever she pleaded to rest or asked to be freed to go home even without being paid.
Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) rescued Lai from a condominium in Mandaluyong along with other foreign nationals after she was able to seek help from a Filipino staff of the building.
“In my company, there are also Chinese nationals. My boss tells them that if anyone goes to NBI, their families in China will be in danger,” she said.
She said her employers claimed they have powerful protectors, including a certain “Michael Yang.”
Hontiveros said she was still trying to find out whether the Yang mentioned was the same person as President Duterte’s former economic adviser.
Lai’s entry into the country is similar to that of thousands of Chinese workers in POGOs, where they enter as tourists but actually work in the country, in many cases, without work permits and tax identification numbers.
Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Joel Coronel on Tuesday told the Senate committee on labor and employment, chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, that there is a spike in prostitution incidents involving foreign POGO workers last year, with authorities rescuing 191 mostly Chinese sex workers.
Ang See said Lai’s situation was not an isolated case as the MRPO has monitored several human trafficking cases involving POGOs.
“We heard of the many prostitutes who are caught during the raid. Many of these people did not come here because of prostitution. It is human trafficking first and foremost because they were all enticed here under false pretenses. And then they feel as helpless as Ivy. It’s good Ivy reached out to a Filipino to help her and found helping hands,” Ang See said.
She cited a case of a Chinese national working in a POGO in the Bataan Freeport Zone who sought the help of the MRPO.
The 24-year-old victim identified as “Ming” had filed a complaint with the NBI against her former employers for allegedly running a cyberfraud racket in the guise of a POGO.
“They are given a script on how to entice people to invest and she revealed to me that there are already Filipinos, not just Chinese, but Filipinos who have been victimized by this kind of cyberfraud operation,” Ang See said.
She said Ming’s employers allegedly tried to bribe her to withdraw the complaint and, when she refused, they claimed they have more than enough cash to bribe law enforcers, prosecutors and judges.