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Pinoy Abroad

Hontiveros: Filipinos illegally recruited as crypto-scammers in Cambodia too

After revealing the human trafficking cases in Myanmar, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday revealed that some Filipinos were also illegally recruited to work as crypto-scammers in Cambodia too.

“Filipinos are becoming the main target of human trafficking syndicates. Matapos nating matulungan ang ilang Pinoy sa Myanmar na inaabuso at sapilitang pinagtrabaho bilang crypto scammer, ngayon, malalaman nating meron din palang ganitong modus sa Cambodia. These fraud factories are part of a disturbing industry that has to be dismantled,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

(After we assisted the Filipinos in Myanmar who were abused and forced to work as crypto-scammers, now, we learned that there is a similar modus in Cambodia too.)

Hontiveros' office learned about the human trafficking case in Cambodia from one of the victims, Miles, who returned to the Philippines last January 16.

According to the senator's statement, Miles reached out to her office to seek assistance as there are other Filipinos who need rescuing in Cambodia.

Similar to the case of human trafficking in Myanmar, Miles said they were being forced by their Chinese bosses to dupe citizens from countries like the United States of America and Canada, and encourage them to invest in cryptocurrencies.

"Ang nature po ng pangi-scam namin ay nagse-send po kami ng wrong text message sa mga American and then after po kapag nakapag-send na kakaibiganin po namin sakaling magreply po sila," Miles said in an interview with Hontiveros' office—a video of which was shared to the media.

(The nature of scam is we sent wrong text messages to Americans and we will befriend them if they reply.)

During her stay in Cambodia, Miles said she witnessed how some of her co-workers were being punished through electrocution.

"Kapag wala kang nakukuhang kliyente, ang ginagawa, pinagtatrabaho [kami] ng mahigit 16 hours, walang tulog, seven days a week…  Meron po akong nakita at narinig ko po mismo na kinuryente na kasamang empleyado,” she recalled.

(If we fail to get a client, they force us to work more than 16 hours, without sleep, seven days a week. I personally saw and heard a fellow employee who was electrocuted.)

Asked how she managed to get out of the Philippines, Miles narrated that she flew from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Thailand. From there, she was made to ride a van going to Cambodia.

Miles shared that some Filipinos, who were recruited for the same job, flew out from Clark International Airport and were allegedly escorted by immigration officers.

"Sa Clark, may escort po sila na immigration. May agent po doon na nagbu-book ng ticket at may contact na po doon sa mismo immigration officer.  Hindi na po ini-interview, wala na rin pong documents na hinihingi basta tinatatakan na lang po diretso," Miles narrated.

(In Clark, they have an escort, an immigration officer. There was an agent who booked their ticket and has a contact with the immigration officer.  Their passports were stamped without any interview and no document was asked.) 

"Bago ka po muna mag-flight papupuntahin ka muna sa bahay nila. Kapag nandun na kayo sa bahay nila, ipa-practice po kayo tapos kung anong gagawin, anong sasabihin. Pagkatapos po n'on saka na po kayo sasabak sa Clark para pumila po doon sa naka-schedule na immigration officer," she added.

(Before the flight, they were asked to go to a house where they practiced what they will do and say. After that, they will proceed to Clark and will fall in line where the immigration officer is assigned.)

Hontiveros said she appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the speedy repatriation of Miles' colleagues after learning that after their rescue last Monday night by Cambodian police authorities, they are being held at a police station without beds and basic facilities.

“I trust that our DFA can bring our kababayans home as soon as possible. I also expect that we keep closely working with ASEAN member-states to strategize how to effectively put a lid on these criminal activities. It is unacceptable that this devastating scheme keeps roping in our hardworking men and women,” she said.

The lawmaker said she will disclose more details on this case of human trafficking in Cambodia during the continuation of the Senate hearing on the issue.

"Clearly, this is an industrial complex that involves various actors from around Southeast Asia and beyond. Baka kone-konektado ang mga kriminal na nang-aabuso at nananamantala ng mga Pilipinong nais lamang maghanap ng disenteng trabaho,” the senator said.

(Maybe the criminals who abuse and take advantage of Filipinos who only want to get a decent job are connected.)

In November last year, Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech baring the case of 12 overseas Filipino workers who were allegedly recruited by supposed Chinese syndicates to work as scammers in Myanmar.

The senator cautioned the public against illegal recruiters who are offering customer service representative positions in Cambodia and Myanmar.

She advised the public to coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) first before accepting jobs offered through social media.

"Habang nilulutas natin ang kawalan ng hanapbuhay sa Pilipinas, dapat may matatag na plano at proseso na rin tayo sa gobyerno sa pagsugpo ng human trafficking sa bansa,” Hontiveros said.

(While we address the lack of job opportunities in the Philippines, we should also have a concrete plan and processes in the government to stop human trafficking.)—AOL, GMA Integrated News