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Cybercrime hub in Pasay has 'studio' for 'love scam'

Authorities on Wednesday conducted an inspection on the cybercrime hub in Pasay City that was recently raided and discovered a "studio" where workers operate the "love scam."

According to John Consulta and Jonathan Andal's report on "24 Oras," requests for video calls are done in the studio that has a bed, side desk and several clothes.  

The other side of the studio was made to appear like an office workplace with a table, computer and fake books.

The alleged hub was raided on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Investigation.  Around 650 person were held during the raid, including 400 Filipinos.

Apart from love scam, the workers were also asked to engage in crypto scams, and task scams.

“May ipapadala sa iyong message like this post, share this post, you’ll get 300 or 1,000 pesos, so mae-engganyo ka. Aabot sa stage na malaki-laki na ‘yung kikitain mo, hihingi na sayo ng investment para ma-unlock. Ay, may problema lang sa processing, bayad ka pa ng konti, doon na madadale yung kanilang biktima,” said Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty.

That raid was among the topics discussed in a Senate hearing regarding human trafficking Wednesday.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) said it inspected the facility last July 26 and noticed that it has equipment that could possibly be used for scams, but it failed to send a report to the police.

“May napansin na kayong posibleng badges of human trafficking, badges of scam operations, ba’t ‘di niyo immediately pinadala?” Senator Risa Hontiveros asked PAGCOR.

"I think it is a remiss on our part," said Atty. Jessa Mariz Fernandez, PAGCOR Assistant Vice President.

The establishment was said to be a licensed POGO operator. One of the employees was rescued as a human trafficking victim in Myanmar before.

“Mayroon kaming isang natagpuan na ni-rescue naming Pilipino sa Myanmar, nandoon siya nagtatarabaho sa POGO na yun Pasay. Mayroon kaming listahan ng mga narescue naming Pilipino sa region,” said Ty.

Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking said that although the number of foreigners involved in such scams is decreasing, Filipinos being recruited by POGO are rising.

“Ang ginawa nila, binawasan nila yung mga foreigners nila na nagtatrabaho. Medyo naghinay-hinay sila sa badges ng human trafficking — halimbawa wala na kaming nakitang mga kwarto na may dark room,” said Ty.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said, "We're now human trafficking hub, 'di lang POGO hub, human trafficking of the world. So POGO is not bringing benefit to our country, it's bringing shame."—Sherylin Untalan/LDF, GMA Integrated News