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PASAY CITY, Philippines – Law enforcers rescued 15 Filipino women and arrested three Chinese nationals during a midnight raid on a suspected sex den in Pasay City on Saturday, November 25.
Dozens of agents raided eight units in three towers of Shore Residences at the popular Mall of Asia area during an entrapment operation by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ IACAT), the Bureau of Immigration, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center, and the PNP Intelligence Group.
The PAOCC turned over the three Chinese and one Filipino suspects and the rescued women to the PNP WCPC. The suspects will face complaints for alleged violation of Republic Act 10364 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, said PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz.
Authorities also held for questioning two other Filipinos, a driver and a delivery man.
Cruz said they launched the rescue operation after receiving reports of around 48 Filipino women engaged in the sex trade at the condominium complex.
The complex management allows unit owners to rent out their properties. Various global apps facilitating hotel bookings also include the complex in their listings.
The DOJ IACAT said the raid was based on a warrant to seize, search, and examine computer data issued by the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 109 Judge Christian Castaneda.
Rappler has reached out to the management of the complex. We will update the story once they provide a statement.
7 women on the 17th floor
Authorities raided eight rooms in Towers A, B, and C.
The raiding teams arrested two male and one female Chinese nationals in a sixth-floor unit serving as the operations hub in Tower A.
They found seven Filipino women in Tower B on the 17th floor. Nine other Filipino women, including the Filipino suspect, alias Miya, were in three units of Tower C.
The three Tower C units were being used as residences of the trafficked women, the PAOCC said.
They also entered three other Tower C units on the 10th, 11th, and 12th floors. While these were allegedly assigned for sex activities, authorities found them empty, although there were lingerie, packs of condoms, lubricants, and contraceptive pills.
“The raid that we conducted was quite early. If you noticed there were only several women but we already expected that since the area is not specific. The women can be sent to a different area, or in another hotel, or in another room of this building,” said Cruz.
Rappler interviewed seven young women rescued from the 17th floor of Tower B.
The women said sex is offered in four packages. The prices vary depending on the duration. Most clients, they said, are Chinese,
Package A costs P4,000 for an hour of sexual activity. Package B costs P8,000 for two hours, Package C is seven hours for P12,000, while unlimited intercourse is worth P16,000 under Package D.
The income is shared with their “boss”, they said. Neither the women nor the authorities provided the name of the boss.
“Kate”, 32, told Rappler that for the P4,000 package, she gets P2,000 while the boss gets the other half.
Kate is a single mother of two. She needed the money to make ends meet, she said.
“Mabilis kasi ang pera. Wala naman ibang trabaho na habang buhay mag ta-trabaho ng ganito. Nagiipon lang din kami, pang business din,” she said. (The money comes quick. This not work we do long-term. I are saving to put up my own business.)
The women offer their Chinese clients “wonder candy,” which acts like an aphrodisiac. Massage is offered as an extra service at an additional P1,000, they said.
Kate and her companions said they have been working for six months. While they are housed in the complex for the duration of the stint, they are free to come and go.
The PNP brought the rescued Filipinas to Camp Crame for debriefing prior to their transfer to Marillac Hills National Training School for Girls in Alabang.
The PAOCC showed Rappler Telegram channels where the girls are displayed in various poses and get-ups, with the prices of the service packages. The channels have private settings accessible to select networks and are not on public display.
The PAOCC also showed internal communications in a private work channel that included instructions on who services specific clients.
This is the first PAOCC raid in months where the sex trade did not directly involve an off-shore gaming operation.
Cruz told Rappler that lax management of residential complexes allowing short-lease lodgings could pose dangers to innocent residents or visitors.
“Dapat yung owner ng building ay alam kung ano ang background or business ng kanyang tenants,” he said. (The building owner should screen the background or business of tenants.)
He said the perceived leniency could also be due to the nature of the “crime of prostitution.”
“Because (in this case, you have) consenting adults, and there is no public disturbance; it is being done in the privacy of rooms, so mahirap pakialaman ng security guards,” he added.
He said the guards tried to lock the entrance of Tower C when the raiding teams arrived.
“That means they are alert, but when it comes to tenants, they are lenient,” Cruz noted.
During Senate hearings in 2020 on alleged links of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) to sex trafficking and prostitution, police officials said hotel managements often ignore signs of a sex trade in their premises.
Even back then, law enforcers and legislators told 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.
When Rappler entered the complex with Cruz, there was no receptionist in the lobby. The guard told around 50 guests and visitors of Tower C milling outside they could enter only after the raid.
Around 20 persons in the lobby had to wait until authorities were done before heading to their units or the exit, but they were not questioned.
All the women said they got in via a friend’s referral. The delivery boy also told Rappler a friend had referred him for the job.
“Mababa ang tiwala ng Chinese sa Filipinos so makakapasok ka lang kung may referral,” he said. (The Chinese don’t really trust Filipinos so you need a referral to get the job.)
The delivery boy said he shuttles food from a kitchen in Tower A to other units leased by the operators of the sex den.
Cruz said the Pasay government has yet to respond following the series of raids from different establishments in the city.
In a statement, Shore 1 Board of Trustees / Condominium Corporation said an operation was conducted by the authorities in cooperation with the property’s security personnel.
The firm said the operation was conducted peacefully with no disruption to the normal operations of the property.
“The management strongly condemns all forms of crime especially against women and children. Rest assured that our property is a safe place, and the security of its residents is our top priority,” read part of the company statement. -Rappler.com