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'Women for order': Hontiveros slams Chinese prostitution dens in POGO industry

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'Women for order': Hontiveros slams Chinese prostitution dens in POGO industry
File photo shows Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, presented at a livestreamed Senate probe the findings of her investigation on the rescues of sexual trafficking victims in Metro Manila, which included a menu of sex services. 

According to the Senator, the aforementioned "menu" displayed photos of trafficked Chinese women and was passed around through online messaging apps Telegram and Chinese-owned WeChat. 

One of these victims shared her affidavit at the probe under the alias Carina and via a video call from elsewhere. She shared her and other women in the den were told that they would be taking part in a "massage with extra service" business. 

Carina, among other Filipina women, said she was later kept by a Chinese national in a house in Makati.

'POGO benefits at what cost?'

According to her, the women in the house primarily serviced Chinese clientele and were paid at least P6,000 per job, an amount that they halved with their Chinese handler but also increased if they were asked to spend the night or perform extra services. 

The girl also said the Chinese ringleader of the prostitution den had long been based in the Philippines and was not a tourist or a new entry. 

RELATED: Kidnapping cases up in 2018 – PNP

Carina shared that one member, under the alias Shaira, was as young as 14 years old. It was Shaira too, she said, who later contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Once she was healed of her affliction, she was made to go back to work as a prostitute. 

"Is it worth it?" Hontiveros asked of the benefits supposedly brought by the presence of POGOs. 

"At what cost ito? It shouldn't ever be at the cost of any Filipino woman."

Sen. Joel Villanueva echoed this sentiment late last year, saying that the benefits of POGOs in the country were ultimately outweighed by the rise in kidnapping incidents involving Chinese nationals and the "social ills" they brought to the country. 

RELATED: Villanueva: Kidnapping incidents cancel out benefits from POGOs 

'Just like GrabFood'

As she presented screenshots of an online transaction, Hontiveros likened the workings of Chinese prostitution dens to restaurants.

"Yung mga babae parang inoorder lang sa app ng mga Chinese members ng group na ito - parang Grabfood, may menu, may presyo, then darating na lang sa hotel o condo mo," she said. 

Her presentation revealed a system of purchasing separated according to the women's ethnicity and the extent of the sexual acts. 

"Brothers, we have new tea available, we welcome old customers to come and drink tea," one translated text message from a Chinese handler read.

According to a side note in Hontiveros' report, the term "tea" in China sex industry means prostitutes and was used to avoid Chinese online censors.

'Other changes besides banning POGOs'

According to members of the panel, "the focus has always been on recruiters involved in the trafficking. If there's no demand side, then there are no traffickers."

READ: 6 Chinese nabbed for kidnap, rape

A representative from the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific recommended that the government look into the entry of foreign buyers, direct efforts towards the demand side and penalize the perpetrators and the entry of buyers such as single men coming in as sex tourists.

Also mentioned was the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which was approved by the United Nations in 1949 and prohibits the running of brothels and renting accommodation for prostitution purposes.

Resource persons from the PNP and the NBI were careful to point out that these rings served primarily Chinese customers who were not necessarily POGO workers. "It just so happens," they said, "that majority of these worked in these gaming operators."

RELATED: Fact check: Makati abduction an 'isolated incident'?

"Our main problem is about rescuing victims," they said. 

“Hindi pwedeng nagiging pugad tayo ng Chinese prostitution dens (We can't be haven of Chinese prostitution dens),” said Hontiveros.

“Tatlo ang anak kong babae, ang isa menor de edad. ‘Pag nakikita ko sa TV ang mga babaeng nahuhuli sa raid na punong puno ng hiya at takot, isa lang ang tumatakbo sa isip ko: this girl is someone’s daughter. And we have failed her (I have three daughters, one of them is a minor. Everytime I watch television and see women caught during raids, filled with shame and fear, this runs through my mind: this girl is someone's daughter. And we have failed her) ."

Other recommendations of the panels include:

  • Requiring ISPs to inform PNP or NBI of any leads, monitoring suspicious photos 
  • Suspend the Anti-Wiretapping Law for similar cases 
  • Address existing controversies with the implementation of Anti Child Pornography Act (ISPs still require a court order even when the shouldn't anymore)
  • Institutionalize recovery and rehabilitation program of DSWD so funds can be properly allocated (DSWD encountering lack of social workers especially for child and minor victims)
  • Filing expanded anti-trafficking bill 

"Pati yung mga sarili nating kababaihan at kabataan, nabibiktima na (Even our own women and youth are being victimized)," Hontiveros said. 

"Kailangan na nating umaksyon (We need to act now). We need to look into suspending POGO operations because they attract criminals into our country."

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