Senate probe on trafficking, cyber fraud in Pampanga sought

By Benjamin Pulta and Wilnard Bacelonia

May 8, 2023, 5:42 pm

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of PNP)</em></p>

(Photo courtesy of PNP)

MANILA – The Senate aims to uncover the “true scale and roots of human trafficking" as it seeks to investigate the alleged human trafficking and cyber fraud operations at Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation inside the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Mabalacat City, Pampanga.

Senator Grace Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 595 on Monday following police operatives’ rescue of at least 1,090 alleged victims of human trafficking, including foreigners, on May 4.

She said the inquiry will alert traffickers that they will be dealt with the full force of the law.

The victims were allegedly forced to work for a fraudulent cyber-enabled industry.

"There is an urgent need to determine the supposed existence and cease the operations of these scam hubs in the country for the protection of our citizens and foreign nationals that are being victimized by this kind of human trafficking scheme," Poe said in a statement.

She urged the Bureau of Immigration to explain the presence of the foreign workers and reveal what kind of visas they hold while the Department of Justice (DOJ) urged public cooperation to expose boiler-room type operations of cyber scam organizations similar to the ones raided in Pampanga.

Considering the significant number of rescued foreign nationals, the Department of Foreign Affairs is coordinating with the different embassies to expedite repatriation, the DOJ said.

Poe also called for other law enforcement agencies. such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, and Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Trafficking (IACAT) to intensify the government campaign against human trafficking of foreign nationals into the country.

The lawmaker recalled the recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality which revealed the existence of “scam hubs" in the Philippines that engage in cyber fraud operations and traffic foreign workers into the country.

The proceedings bared that the scam hubs and the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators in the country have some similarities and could be “simply just one operation that’s happening underneath many operations."

“(W)e hope that this recent operation serves as a warning to anyone who plans or continues to exploit those vulnerable to human trafficking. Inter-agency collaboration clearly demonstrates that sooner or later, government shall reach you and put an end to your inhumane and illegal activities,” the DOJ said in a statement on Monday.

The operation was prompted by a complaint from the Indonesian government.

“We reiterate our warnings to the public to be wary of any and all forms of human trafficking. Should you have any information that may help us rescue or assist victims and investigate perpetrators, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us through the 1343 Actionline against Human Trafficking, IACAT Facebook Messenger or email us at [email protected],” the DOJ said.

After the successful operation, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said they will continue to work closely with other agencies to ensure that those who engage in such heinous crimes are held accountable.

“We must all unite in this fight against human trafficking and help put an end to this inhumane practice,” Acorda said. (PNA)