Community News

Syndicates target women in human trafficking, illegal recruitment

Lai Yu Cian recounts her ordeal during a Senate inquiry.

Two young women, from Mainland China and Taiwan, respectively, are the latest victims of Chinese syndicates operating illegally in the Philippines in the guise of Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo).
Both were enticed to work in the Philippines with promises of high salaries. Both decided to quit their jobs when they learned that their employers were conducting illegal activities. Both were detained against their will by their employers, and both were rescued by law enforcers from their work premises.
Senator Risa Hontiveros assailed the rise in crimes attributed to the proliferation of Pogos, which not only spawned prostitution dens but also human trafficking as crime syndicates feed the vices of mostly mainland Chinese workers in the industry.
Lai Yu Cian, 23, from Taiwan, arrived in the Philippines in October 2019 on a tourist visa after responding to an offer to work as an administrative assistant in an advertising agency.
She appeared at the Senate on Feb. 12 under Hontiveros’ protection and recounted her ordeal at the hands of her Chinese recruiters, who allegedly trafficked her into working in a Pogo.
“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. Lai was rescued by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation from the Circuit Corporate Tower, Makati, Feb. 3.
Teresita Ang See, of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), said Lai’s situation was not an isolated case; the MRPO has monitored several human trafficking cases involving Pogos.
Just before Lai, Ming Xuanbo from China was accompanied by Mercy Lim of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. to seek MRPO’s help.
Ming discovered that the company for which she works, in the Ekxinum Building in Subic Bay Free Port Zone, is involved in cyberfraud. It used online chats to entice investors to put their money in non-existent business ventures.
She was forcibly detained by her employers when she wanted to quit her job. She reached out to a friend and the Anti-Kidnapping Group of the Philippine National Police rescued her on Nov. 2, 2019.
Ming has filed a complaint at the Department of Justice 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, who have been victimized by this kind of cyberfraud operation,” Ang See 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.
Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Joel Coronel on Feb. 11 told the Senate committee on labor and employment, chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, that there was a spike in prostitution incidents involving foreign Pogo workers last year, with authorities rescuing 191 mostly Chinese sex workers.
On Feb. 13, Ang See and Hontiveros’ staff accompanied Lai to the preliminary investigation at the Makati City Hall Prosecutor’s Office. Afterward, they went to Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office to process Lai’s travel documents because her employer refused to return her passport.
On Feb. 14, with Lim’s help, her travel document was stamped by the Bureau of Immigration so she could return to Taiwan.