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Cebu News

No evidence of mafia link

Christell Fatima M. Tudtud, Michael Vencynth H. Braga - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - There is no evidence just yet that the nine Koreans arrested in Lapu-Lapu Friday for alleged human trafficking are members of a mafia or any other organized group that operates illegal activities in Cebu, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.

 NBI Special Investigator Arnel Pura described the suspects' business setup as a "group enterprise" focused solely on promoting and offering sex tourism to male Korean citizens.

"Ilang enticement is not tourist spots but more on sex tourism," he said.

The nine were identified as Jongham Ham, Jong In Han, Munsu Lee, Hosik Park, Joontae Kim, Jae Gyu Kim, Dongkil Kim, Namgyun Shin, and Byeonghae Park were arrested in Barangay Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City.

The nine were arrested in the company of Filipino women during a rescue operation at a beach house in Barangay Marigondon dawn last Friday.

The NBI is still pursuing a certain Maribeth Bontog and three men identified only as Choi, Andy and Kim. The four, with Choi allegedly serving as leader, were the ones who allegedly recruited women to serve as sex partners and escorts to Koreans.

Pura said the group maintained a Korean website where transactions were carried out, including payments, tickets, arrival and departures, and accommodation.

The website could be accessed only by Korean clients.

"Kung naa tay maggamit nga tawo nga Koreano nga mo-cooperate sa ato, pwede nato ma-access," Pura said.

The question on whether or not the nine are linked to organized groups surfaced following a recent pronouncement by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte that a Korean mafia is involved in illegal drugs and prostitution in Cebu.

Duterte said intelligence reports indicated that the mafia is involved in narcotics, prostitution and kidnapping and warned foreigners who engage in unlawful activities that they will not be given special treatment.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-7 also confirmed earlier the presence of a Korean mafia in Cebu that is reportedly engaged in the drug trade. PDEA-7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz has said he received such information when he was still a deputy director in 2009.

Criminal complaints will be filed against the nine Koreans today.

Under the country's anti-human trafficking law, trafficking of women for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment of up to six years.

The nine will be presented before the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor's Office today for an inquest proceeding.

TIP

It was on March 1 when the NBI received information that 10 Korean tourists would be arriving at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

At the airport, the tourists were met by two Korean guides, Andy and Kim, and brought them at the Rendevous Hotel, a two story beach house located in Marigondon, which is being leased by a Korean national named Alvin.

The beach house is reportedly exclusive to Korean tourists.

When the NBI swooped in , seven women ages 19 to 21 were rescued and admitted to authorities they were recruited to serve as sex partners and escorts at P2,000 per day.

It was allegedly Bontog who recruited them and it was Choi who referred them to his Korean clients. Andy and Kim facilitated the clients' stay in Cebu.

LGU Move

Today, Councilor Harry Radaza, the acting vice mayor of Lapu-Lapu City, will meet with acting mayor Marcial Ycong and Councilors Flaviano Hiyas and Melissa Dignos-Vidal, chairpersons of the committees on youth and violence against women, to discuss the so-called sex tourism.

The sex tourism tag will have a potentially negative effect on the city's brand as a "Historic Resort City."

"Importante man kay we are branding Lapu-Lapu as a Historic Resort City and we really are banking on tourism. We really have to address this issue," he said.

Radaza also urged hotel and resort owners to report foreigners who check in suspiciously with young women or minors in tow.

"We will be looking on ways nga to really involve the different hotels nga sila proactive sila nga maoy mo-report kung dunay makit-an, labi nang mga underaged nga mga youth nato nga maoy gipangdala sa kwarto… I think it's very obvious already og kung unsa ilahang tuyo gyud didto," Radaza said. - /JMO (FREEMAN)

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