Press Release
November 10, 2023

Opening Statement of Senator Risa Hontiveros during the Committee on Women public hearing on alleged human trafficking and cyberfraud involving POGO
November 10, 2023

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1nOFGlL4QomGYWi_GLRvVcs7yaCppVXjR?usp=sharing

Good morning everyone, I call this meeting to order. I wish to acknowledge my fellow Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

2020 pa lang, pinasok na ng aking opisina ang usapin ng human trafficking at ang mga POGO hub. Ang naging pangunahing usapin ay ang pambibiktima sa mga kababaihan at kabataan ng mga POGO hub na ito. At bagamat madami nang naging ugat at daloy ang imbestigasyon - mula pastillas hanggang POGO hanggang scam hub -may imbestigasyon din ang kumite na tsine chair ni Sen Sherwin, babalik at babalik din pala sa original sin. Ang pag abuso ng kababaihan. Truly, trafficking is gendered, and women are always and forever disproportionately impacted when predators and syndicates visit crime and abuse upon economically-vulnerable populations.

(VIDEO SHOWING)

Hindi ko napigilan ang pagluha nung nakita ko ang "aquarium" kung saan ginagawang putahe ang mga babae, at ang mga kwarto na napakarami kung saan ginagawa silang parausan ng mga empleyado at boss ng POGO.

Gaya niyo po, nashock din ako sa nakita ko na "torture chamber" kung saan ginagapos ang mga empleyado ng Smart Web. Walang ilaw, walang pagkain, pasa pasa at bugbog bugbog ang sinapit ng mga biktima ng mapangahas at abusadong employer na ito. The walls are literally blood-stained, marka ng mga pa na nakatapak sa mga dingding, and tell stories of the torture, anguish and suffering inflicted on the prisoners of that room.

At pagkatapos po sa pagdaos ng ating hearing, ay gusto ko din siyasatin itong nakakabahala na cottage industry ng paggawa ng peke at fraudulently obtained TIN ID, Philhealth ID, at pati Alien Certificate of Registration at iba pa na diumano nagiging daan para sila ay maging legal na residente dito sa Pilipinas o baka mas malala, magkaroon ng Philippine passport. Given the spate of crime, especially kidnappings, na paulit ulit nang nababalita sa news, and equally important, our current dispute in the West Philippine Sea, it is alarming that we are giving an all-access pass to Chinese citizens through these POGO hubs.

This is really the problem when our supposed regulators have both regulatory and revenue generating mandates. When these mandates conflict, which one suffers? When income generation is prioritized over social impact, who suffers? Hindi na ito hypothetical kundi kitang kita ng dalawang mata natin ang pangkasalukuyan na nating realidad: Public safety and national security suffer.

I will keep this short because there is much to unpack indeed.

Before I call on the Committee Secretary to acknowledge the resource persons and administer the oath to those who have not taken their oath, may I ask my colleague Sen Sherwin if he has an opening statement?

(Senator Sherwin Gatchalian gave opening statements)

(CommSec acknowledged resource persons and administered oath)

In a little bit, I will give the floor to IACAT to make a presentation on this raid, and I really hope that, aside from providing details about this specific operation, IACAT also helps us by providing answers to the following questions:

1) How does this particular operation help in our overall understanding of this "scam hub" phenomenon? What patterns are reinforced, what new trends are emerging?

2) What challenges are faced by our law enforcement agencies in these successive raids?

3) What are the policy gaps you IACAT managed to identify and how can we strengthen our existing laws to address these gaps?

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