MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday, February 17, informed the Senate of signs that a hotel or condominium is being used for sex trafficking operations.
They served as resource persons at the second hearing conducted by committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality, as it investigated links of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) to sex trafficking and prostitution.
NBI Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division chief Joel Tovera said that there is a frequent in-and-out of Chinese nationals in a hotel that houses trafficking. They are told by taxi drivers that they would drop off a passenger and that person would come out after one hour. Then more would come and do the same.
Meanwhile, the Parañaque city police said that customers are brought to hotels or condominiums via vans. Security guards and barangay officials tell them that the vans carry people that don’t come to the condos regularly. When the staff members notice that they don’t recognize the people who enter, they tip the police.
Tovera said that hotels deny that they have knowledge of the crimes happening in their establishments.
“They are surprised whenever we conduct raids. They are denying at first that there are ongoing prostitution activities there. But the moment we open the door, because our asset is already there, to their surprise, that uncooperative move of theirs becomes cooperative to the point of opening all the doors of that hotel,” said Tovera.
Parañaque police colonel Rowen Sarmiento said hotel managements they should have an idea of what’s happening since they have security guards and maintenance crew that have the capacity to relay information.
Common-sight hotels and even a luxury establishment were implicated in a list of that the PNP furnished the Senate committee chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros:
- St. Giles Hotel, Makati
- Red Planet
- Midas Hotel, Pasay
- Okada Manila
- Avida Towers Asten
- Go Hotel, Manila Airport Road
- various KTVs in Metro Manila
President of Avida Towers Asten Condominium Corporation Sherwin Celestial said that they implemented RFID and taking of biometrics, and heightened the visibility of CCTVs. He also said they had limited control on overseeing prostitution operations since the owners rent out the units and the management only has their lease agreements.
Representatives from Go Hotels said that they keep copies of passports of guests in their records upon check-in. However, Go Hotels corporate secretary Monica Villanueva admitted that policy wasn’t strictly followed in the Manila Airport Road branch.
Villanueva said that they are holding an internal investigation of hotel employees in the branch, as Hontiveros brought up the possibility of their being complicit to the sex trafficking operations.
“Kailangan talaga singilin ng due diligence at accountability ng mga may-ari at management ng mga establishment laban sa mga krimen sa mga bata at babae,” Hontiveros told reporters after the hearing. (We should demand due diligence and accountability from the owners of establishments in fighting crimes against women and children.)
In a statement sent to Rappler on Wednesday, February 9, Okada Manila said it “has always been fully committed to ensuring the welfare of our team members and guests, we consistently cooperate with the NBI regarding all law enforcement issues.”
It added, “We shall keep on doing all necessary measures while working closely with the authorities to ensure that Okada Manila remains a safe space.”
On February 12, Hontiveros presented to the media an exploited Taiwanese worker who was rescued from her POGO employers. The woman said her abusive employers often bragged of having a protector in the government by the name of Michael Yang.
Hontiveros said the committee is checking if this Michael Yang is the same person as President Rodrigo Duterte’s ex-economic adviser.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has been implicated in a modus that allows for Chinese POGO workers and women seamless entry into the country for a bribe of P10,000 per person, Hontiveros revealed. The BI announced it would investigate the revelations. – Rappler.com