5 Singaporeans rescued near Manila during raid involving nearly 3,000 human trafficking victims
Five Singaporeans were among nearly 3,000 suspected victims of human trafficking rescued during by the Philippine police during a raid at a compound in a city south of Manila.
The victims are believed to have been lured to the Philippines with the promise of employment with a licensed Philippine offshore gaming operator.
However, police suspect the business might be a front used to conduct illegal activities like love scams and cryptocurrency scams.
A total of 2,724 people were rescued during the raids, which spanned seven buildings inside the compound in Las Pinas city, about an hour’s drive from Manila.
More than half of those rescued were Filipino nationals, while the remaining 1,190 were foreigners, with Chinese nationals in the majority, followed by Vietnamese, Indonesians and Malaysians.
One of the Singaporeans was found in one building, and the other four were in another building.
Police Captain Michelle Sabino, who is the spokesman for the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group, said the authorities are still trying to determine who are the victims, and who were those involved in the human trafficking scheme.
She added that it is unclear if the foreigners will be repatriated, but for now, they are still in Las Pinas while the authorities decide who will face charges.
She said: “They were recruited via Facebook and they knew they were going to work in the Philippines.
“Their accommodation and food are free. They have to work for 12 hours a day, from 12 noon to 12 midnight, and the only requirement being that they should be able to speak English.”
She added that some of them were aware they would be assisting in an online gambling operation.
The Chinese nationals were believed to be getting 40,000 pesos (S$978) in compensation each month, while Filipinos and other foreign nationals got 24,000 pesos, Captain Sabino said.
The suspected victims were found in a compound owned by Xinchuang Network Technology, which Philippine authorities suspect of being involved in fraudulent activities, similar to another operation in Mabalacat city, about 90km north of Manila that unravelled in May.
In that case, more than 1,000 people from several Asian nations were held captive and forced to run online scams.
Senator Win Gatchalian in a statement on Wednesday said the raid was a sign that licensed Philippine offshore gaming operators are being used as fronts for criminal activities.
Describing them as a “scourge of our society”, he said it is clear that the government needs to stop their operations if they are involved in illicit activities, regardless if they are licensed or not.
The Straits Times has contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more information.