A total of 936 foreign human trafficking victims have already been allowed to go home after their rescue from an alleged cryptocurrency syndicate based in Mabalacat, Pampanga on May 4.
Police Capt. Michelle Sabino, spokesperson of the the Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), said that as of Tuesday, May 30, a total of 150 rescued foreign victims were already repatriated while 140 more are expected to be transported back to their respective countries this week.
The 1,134 rescued foreign nationals are composed of citizens of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
“The Bureau of Immigration, with the assistance of the PNP ACG, has already processed the foreign nationals for verification, identification, and biometrics for immediate repatriation and has waived possible penalties and fees for violation of immigration laws. 936 of these foreign nationals were issued with Allow Departure Orders,” said Sabino.
On May 4, ACG agents swooped down on the premises of Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation located at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, Mabalacat which resulted in the busting of the cryptocurrency syndicate.
Sabino said the rescued 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.
The recruiter promised to pay for their expenses, including airfare, accommodation, and visa. Upon arrival, their passports would be withheld under the guise of obtaining a work visa.
Recruits are 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.
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 Sabino.
Sabino said the Department of Justice has already released a resolution indicting 10 people who allegedly run the raided area, for violation of Section 4(j)(2) in relation to Section 6(c) and (o), in further relation to Section 10(e), of Republic Act No.9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act; as amended by Republic Act No. 10364 and further amended by Republic Act No. 11862.
If convicted, Sabino said those charged face life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million.
“The respondents will remain in the custody of the PNP ACG Custodial Facility. On the other hand, the victim-witnesses have been taken to a safe house, where they will receive shelter, meals, and other necessary assistance,” said Sabino.
“We reiterate our warning to the public to be wary of any forms of job opportunities being offered online to avoid being victims of human trafficking,” said Sabino.
“We hope that the recent operation will deter anyone who intends to exploit those susceptible to human trafficking or is already engaging in such reprehensible activities. The inter-agency cooperation has clearly shown that the government will eventually catch up with these individuals and put a stop to their cruel and illegal practices,” she added.