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July 2, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 234 views

Acorda: PNP agents resolved to rescue human trafficing victims

PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief, General Benjamin C. Acorda Jr. on Sunday resolved stressed the PNP’s resolve to go after foreign-led online scam syndicates operating in the country and are preying on vulnerable jobseekers from impoverished Asian countries.

The official said the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group is leading the crackdown amid a recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Indonesia wherein Southeast Asian leaders including President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. pledged to crack down on online scams operated by human traffickers known for swindling people into working for fraudulent online gaming sites and other computer scams.

Last Tuesday, PNP-ACG agents under Brigadier Gen. Sydney S. Hernia, backed by police commandos rescued more than 2,700 workers from more than a dozen Asian and African counties found working for a cybercrime ring based in Las Piñas City.

A total of 1,534 Filipinos and 1,190 foreigners were held during the anti-cybercrime raid on Tuesday evening.

Hernia said the suspected Trafficking in Persons (TIP) victims were found in seven buildings of the Xinchuang Network Techonology, formerly known as ‘Hongtai’ building although a reported check of the company’s registration papers showed they only have some 100 employees.

The 1,190 foreigners were composed of 137 Indonesians, 606 Chinese, 183 Vietnamese, 134 Malaysians, 81 Thailanders, one Iranian, two Pakistanis, 4 Yemenis, 2 Africans, one from Cameroon Republic, one Somalian, one Sudanese, seven Nigerians, one Indian, five Myanmar nationals, 21 Taiwanese and fove Singaporeans. Most of the foreigners have no passports.

The remaining 1,190 are all Filipinos who were found to be working in some of the 10-storey buildings, one of which was found to be housing an online casino. The others are believed to be engaged in fraudulent online activities similar to those discovered inside another POGO-hub inside Clark Freeport Zone last May.

The two major raids proved that the country is now being used as a ‘major base of operations’ by cybercrime syndicates, many of them believed to be being controlled and operated by moneyed Chinese nationals with the help of their local contacts.

The main complaint is that many of the recruited workers have become ‘virtual slaves’ tasked to participate in online scams wherein a potential victim could lose a minimum of US$,1000 a day.

The problem has been a major concern of ASEAN leaders that last May, they agreed to further tighten border controls and law enforcement and broaden public awareness programs to arrest cybercrimes.

A day after the Las Piñas City raids, police foiled an attempt to escape by dozens of the more than 1,000 foreign nationals held inside Xinchuang Network Technology Inc. located on 501 Alabang-Zapote Road in Barangay Almanza Uno.

Hernia said the foreigners became upset while the release papers of the 1,534 Filipinos were being processed around 3:15 a.m. Thursday

“While the papers of the Filipino workers were being processed with the help of representatives from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), many of the foreigners became envious and rushed to the gate in an attempt to escape,” the official said.

Officers from the National Capital Region Police Office’s Regional Mobile Force Battalion (NCRPO-RMFB) foiled the attempted escape. Eight of the 48 needed medical attention while five sustained minor injuries as a result of the incident. The other 35 were unharmed.

Hernia said some of the NCRPO-RMFB personnel also sustained slight injuries while pacifying the foreigners and were immediately given proper medical treatment.

Investigation showed some of the foreign nationals attempted to jump over the back portion of the compound which is being protected by a high fence complete with electric barbed wires.
Security has been tightened in the area to prevent a repetition of the incident. Investigators are also looking on who instigated the attempted escape.

PNP-ACG officers, backed-up by police commandos searched the buildings on the strength of a Warrant to Search ,Seize and Examine Computer Data and a search warrant for violation of Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in relation to Section 6 of RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 issued by Las Piñas City Executive Judge Elizabet Yu-Guray.

Named as respondents in the case were one Quiha Lu, Liangfei Chen, Jimmy Lin, Abbey Ng and the other owners/maintainers/facilitators/managers of Building C of Xinhuang Network Techonology as well as the company incorporators identified as Danica Andres Mensah, Oliver Ong, Divin Trillanes Vidal and Daisy Vidal Cidro.

The court authorized the PNP-ACG to confiscate all mobile phones, computer systems and other gadgets, devices and other electronic and ephemeral data or files containing the illegal recruitment and hiring of persons and other related materials inside the buildings.

It was the 2nd major anti-TIP raid conducted by the PNP-ACG, coming in the heels of a similar operation inside the Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation located at Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Mabalacat City in Pampanga last May where nearly 1,400 foreigners and Filipinos were also ‘rescued’ for working in a so-called cryptocurrency scam.

Eight Chinese nationals were arrested and indicted as a result of the raid conducted by the PNP-ACG with the full support of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission under Executive Director Gilbert DC Cruz.

The Clark raid enabled authorities to discover how suspected offshore gaming operations run by organized groups have also turned into multiple revenue streams where workers planning to quit are forced to pay as much as P300,000 to the company or risk being held against his/her will and possibly “sold” to similar companies.

This modus was particularly noted during initial questioning of some of the over 1,000 Southeast Asian and Chinese nationals “rescued” inside the Clark Sun Valley Hub Corp. last May 4.

It was discovered that if they opt to quit, workers need to pay US$1,500 to as much as P300,000 to the company, which also imposes gross fines to their employees for every single infraction.

PNP-ACG and PAOCC investigators estimated that the raided Clark-based company earns around US$800,000 or roughly $24 million or P1.34 billion a month.

Officials said the raided companies attract workers here and abroad by offering them huge salaries and promising ideal working conditions through their Facebook advertisements.

However, the job offer is only good online since the real working condition and the promised big salaries is not true, the recruits would eventually learn.