MANILA, Philippines – In separate raids in South Metro Manila this week, police rescued 63 foreign nationals, all Asians, suspected of being victims of human trafficking and forced to work for operators of Philippine Offshore Games (Pogos), officials said on Friday.
Police General Eliseo Cruz, head of the Investigations and Detective Management Directorate, said they were the latest victims rescued from gambling operators in the country.
He said that since 2017, a year after the rise of online gambling in the country, the Philippine National Police has rescued 4,453 mostly Chinese victims of human trafficking in 1,312 successful operations. the arrest of 1,330 suspected traffickers. Among the victims were also Taiwanese, Burmese, Malaysians and Thais.
Police Colonel Ericson Dilag, deputy director of operations for the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), warned that human trafficking crimes would be a “bigger problem” than kidnappings and serious cases of unlawful detention involving children. Pogos.
According to the AKG, a total of 17 Pogo-related kidnappings were recorded in September, which exceeded the 12 recorded from January to December last year.
Filipino-Chinese community leader Teresita Ang See said illegal recruits for Pogos among mainland Chinese already number in the “thousands”, with deals mostly taking place on social media platforms.
In the first rescue at Barangay Alabang in the town of Muntinlupa on Wednesday, officers from the Southern Police District and Royal Malaysian Police rescued a Malaysian and 33 other foreigners who were believed to have been forced to work at Dexin 999, a Pogo service provider .
Their Chinese employer, Qian Jing, was arrested and would face charges of serious unlawful detention.
Unable to produce license
Dexin is accredited by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), the government gaming regulator, but was unable to present a license to operate.
25-year-old Malaysian Soh Teck Koung told police he started working in June 2021. Two months later, however, his employer stopped paying his salary, refused to allow him to leave the building and threatened to report him to Filipino. authorities for working without a permit.
On September 26, he managed to call his mother in Malaysia and she reported his ordeal to the Malaysian authorities.
On Thursday, officers from the PNP Women and Child Protection Center rescued 29 others – 23 Burmese and six Chinese nationals – from their dormitory in Concorde Village, Barangay Tambo in Parañaque City. No one has been arrested.
Monthly salary P60K
They were all employees of MOA Cloudzone Corp. based at NexGen Tower in Pasay City, which is one of 127 Pogo service providers accredited by Pagcor.
Cruz said two Burmese nationals – a man and a woman – who were previously employed by MOA Cloudzone told police after being rescued a week earlier that they had a relative still working for the company along with others. foreigners who were “forced and exploited to work as online scammers.
According to the two, they were traveling as tourists in Dubai in January when their countryman, known only as ‘Christine’, messaged them saying she owned two businesses in the Philippines and asked them to work for her as customer service representatives. .
The couple arrived in Manila on March 28 and met Christine at the Barangay Tambo cantonment building where their passports were taken.
Cruz said the two worked for Oriental Group of Company in Palace Plaza, Pasay City and promised a monthly salary of P60,000. “They worked by talking to potential clients encouraging them to play and invest money. money online, which to them is a form of online scam,” he said.
The victims were paid for their work only in May, but not in April. They had to work 14 hours a day without holidays.
When they told Christine they wanted to quit and return to Myanmar, they were told to pay 550,000 pesos each before they could leave. They were eventually transferred to MOA Cloudzone “and worked with the same online scam scheme,” police said.
Cruz said they were locked in a room, beaten and shocked with an electric taser without food or water because they no longer wanted to work and had no ability to pay for their release.
On August 23, they were transferred to a condominium in Pasay City where they were locked up for two days.
Christine promised they would be taken back to Myanmar, but they were instead transferred to Shuang Ma Company, Bacoor, Cavite. They were informed that they had been “sold” for 3.49 million pesos each.
They were locked in separate rooms for three days without food, only water and forced to sign a work contract which also stated that they had obtained a loan of 3.49 million pesos from Christine.
They were forced to work as online scammers again until September 22, when they were rescued, Cruz said.
He said their employer and at least three companies had already been identified by the victims and would be sought by the police.
Pagcor said the foreigners recently arrested for illegal online gambling “are in no way connected to legitimate Pogos” or companies accredited to operate as such.
Alejandro Tengco, president and CEO of Pagcor, said in a statement Friday that any individual, group or entity that conducts online gambling without Pagcor’s approval should not be called Pogo.
“Pogo’s operations are strictly monitored by [Pagcor]and any gaming entity that fails to successfully complete the application process for an offshore gaming license and fails to meet the documentary and financial requirements, among others, cannot qualify as a legal offshore gaming operator, or Pogo,” Tengco said.
He added that Pagcor was coordinating closely with various agencies, such as the Department of Home Affairs and Local Government, the Department of Justice, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation “to effectively determine any illegal offshore gambling operations in the country and thwart kidnappings and incidents of human trafficking. —WITH REPORTS BY RONNEL W. DOMINGO, ANGEL YABUT AND ABBY BOISER INQ
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