Hontiveros sees link between influx of POGO workers, rise of sex trafficking in Manila

Janella Paris
Senator Risa Hontiveros says photos of trafficked women are being passed around in WeChat and Telegram chat groups, where there are 'menus of services, as though in a restaurant'

'PROSTITUTION DENS.' Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, presides over a public hearing Tuesday, January 28, on the proliferation of human trafficking activities in the country brought about by the influx of Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGO. Photo by Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday, January 28, called on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to suspend the visa upon arrival privilege for Chinese nationals, saying it is a “scheme that has readily assisted the rise of Chinese criminals in the country.”

Hontiveros is also studying the suspension of all Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) in the country. She said she is reviewing the economic implications all while “ensuring that there are safety nets in place to protect our women and children.”

Kailangan na nating umaksyon (We need to act). We need to look into suspending POGO operations because they attract criminals into our country,” Hontiveros said.

The senator made these statements as she led a Senate investigation into rescues of POGO-related sexual trafficking victims in Metro Manila.

Hontiveros said the sex trafficking happening in the offshore gaming industry is a “security threat to women and girls” that must be dealt with.

Hindi p’wedeng nagiging pugad tayo ng Chinese prostitution dens (We can’t allow ourselves to be a nest of Chinese prostitution dens),” she said. 

During the Senate hearing, Hontiveros said photos of trafficked women are being passed around in WeChat and Telegram group chat, where there are “menus of services, as though in a restaurant.”

Hontiveros’ presentation, which focused on a group chat called “Miss, wanna date? Group C,” showed an assortment of “packages” male clients can choose from, involving Chinese, Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino girls.

Prices ranged from P3,000 to P45,000, depending on the service.

Testifying at the hearing was 15-year-old Carina (not her real name), who had been rescued by authorities in September 2019. 

Carina said she had been recruited to work as a masseuse but would give extra services like sex. She was paid from P3,000 to P7,000 per customer, half of which would go to her handlers, who were purportedly a Chinese and Filipina couple. 

Hontiveros urged the police to “conduct an immediate crackdown on offshore gambling-related prostitution dens across the Philippines.”

The BI on Tuesday announced it will “temporarily suspend” the visa upon arrival mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen due to the novel coronavirus scare. Rappler.com