The Department of Justice will conduct a preliminary investigation into the human trafficking charges filed against 12 individuals involved in the trafficking of more than 1000 Filipinos and foreign nationals into the country and then force them to run various illegal online schemes.
This came after the Philippine National Police- Anti Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) has filed before the DOJ criminal complaints against the respondents, mostly Chinese nationals, for human trafficking, violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, serious illegal detention and violation of immigration laws.
The DOJ said the complaint was filed last Saturday and the accused, mostly Chinese nationals, opted to avail of a preliminary investigation by signing a waiver of any objection against their delivery to the proper judicial authorities under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispino Remulla said those charged also include Indonesian nationals.
The respondents were brought by PNP-ACG to the DOJ for inquest proceedings along with several victim-witnesses.
The respondents were assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in Manila during the inquest proceedings where representatives from other concerned government agencies were present.
“We anticipate there [will be] further investigation on other parties who are complicit in the trafficking of the victims but were either not present on the site or have yet to be identified as traffickers,” the DOJ said, in a statement.
The filing of the complaint was an offshoot of the rescue operation conducted last May by a composite team from various government agencies by virtue of search warrants covering the premises of Clark Sun Valley Hub Corporation located at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zones in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
The operation was led by the PNP ACG, who earlier secured search warrants from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 81 of Malolos City, Bulacan for violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act, with the assistance of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), the National Task Force Against Trafficking (NTFAT) and the Clark International Airport Task Force Against Trafficking (CIATFAT).
The search warrants were implemented in coordination with PNP-Special Action Force Rapid Deployment Battalion (PNP-SAF), PNP Intelligence Group, PNP Health Service, PNP Regional Civil Security Unit Region 3, the IACAT Operations Center (OpCen), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Mabalacat Police Station.
A total of 1,090 were rescued including 389 Vietnamese, 171 Filipinos and 143 Indonesians, 40 Nepalese, 25 Malaysians, seven from Myanmar, five Thailand nationals and one from Hong Kong.
The DOJ said based on preliminary evidence indicates that the victims were recruited as call center agents to entice foreign customers from the United States, Canada, and Europe to invest in cryptocurrency.
“The victims, mostly male, were instructed to pretend to be attractive women to lure their victims to invest,” it said.
Remulla said he would be meeting with immigration and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) officials about labor trafficking issues.
“I will be meeting with BI people very soon about this. I will be meeting Pagcor about this, to ask them about the licenses that we have been giving, we might as well make an inventory of all the licenses and all the people working here based on the licenses…,” Remulla said.