DoJ indicts 10 person for human trafficking
By Franco Jose C. Baroña
May 31, 2023 160
THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has indicted at least 10 individuals for their alleged involvement in the trafficking of over 1,000 foreigners who were forced into working for a cyber-fraud organization in the country and were rescued by the Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group(PNP-ACG) in Pampanga earlier this month.
Police BGen. Sidney Hernia, ACG director, said on Wednesday that the DoJ released its resolution on Tuesday, May 30, indicting the respondents for violation of Republic Act 9208 otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act; as amended by Republic Act 10364 and further amended by Republic Act No. 11862.
If convicted, Gen. Hernia said the suspects shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million.
Over 1,000 foreigners from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam who were all victims of human trafficking were rescued by a composite team from various government agencies led by the PNP-ACG while serving search warrants on the premises of Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation located at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Mabalacat, Pampanga on the evening of May 4.
Based on the investigation, the victims were recruited through online job postings, mostly on Facebook, Telegram, and WhatsApp, to work as call center agents and were promised high salaries and good working conditions.
It was also learned that the recruiter would pay for the victims’ expenses, including airfare, accommodation, and visa. Upon arrival, their passports would be withheld under the guise of obtaining a work visa.
Hernia said the victims will be trained for a period of five to six days to improve their social communication skills. After training, they would seek out foreign investors from the United States, Canada, and Europe through dating apps.
He said the victims, who were mostly males, were ordered by their handlers to pretend to be attractive women on a dating site and entice their clients to invest in fake cryptocurrency.
“The victims work for at least 16-18 hours a day without overtime pay. There is also a corresponding salary deduction for every violation of company policies. Worse, violators or resigning workers are locked in a ‘dark room’ for days and given only one meal a day,” said Hernia.
On May 6, 2023, the PNP-ACG together with prosecutors from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) filed a case before the DoJ against 10 individuals, who were initially identified as traffickers, for violation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and Serious Illegal Detention.
On May 22, 2023, the suspects, represented by their counsel, submitted their counter-affidavits.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) with the assistance of the PNP-ACG, has processed the foreigners for verification, identification, and biometrics for immediate repatriation and has waived possible penalties and fees for violation of immigration laws.
Hernia said 936 of the rescued foreigners were issued with Allow Departure Orders.
He said out of the 1,134 rescued foreigners, 150 had been repatriated as of May 30, and 140 will be repatriated this week.
The respondents will remain in the custody of the PNP-ACG Custodial Facility. On the other hand, the remaining victim-witnesses have been taken to a safe house, where they will receive shelter, meals, and other necessary assistance.
“We reiterate our warning to the public to be wary of any employment opportunities offered online to avoid being victims of human trafficking,” Hernia said.