Over 300 illegal Chinese workers arrested in Quezon City

Robie de Guzman   •   December 20, 2019   •   403

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday said it has apprehended more than 300 foreign nationals in a massive raid of an online gaming company on Thursday night.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement the operation, jointly conducted by the bureau and the Quezon City Police District yielded the arrest of a total of 342 foreigners working without proper permits and visas at a building in Barangay Bago Bantay.

The illegal aliens, all Chinese nationals, were reportedly working for a licensed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) that was not yet allowed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to operate.

“We sought the assistance of PAGCOR in confirming their permit, and we found out that the company was duly licensed, but was not yet allowed to operate,” BI Intelligence Division chief Fortunato Manahan, Jr. said.

Thousands of mobile phones that suspects were allegedly using for online and phone scamming were also recovered from the raided offices.

Manahan also said the company used several names, prompting suspicion that it may be a front for other unscrupulous activities.

“We had reason to suspect that the company is a front for illegal cyber activities and investment scams,” he said.

“We coordinated this operation with the Chinese government, which confirmed the company’s involvement in illegal activities, victimizing mostly their compatriots in China,” he added.

The BI said the arrested Chinese nationals were tagged as fugitives after the Chinese government canceled their passports.

The Chinese government has likewise reportedly canceled the passports of those involved, making them undocumented aliens and tagging them as fugitives.

The suspects are currently detained in a temporary holding facility in Camp Caringal, Quezon City pending their deportation.

Immigration Bureau arrested 510 illegal aliens in 2020

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines— The Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported that its intelligence operatives arrested a total of 510 foreigners last year for violating Philippine immigration laws.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the foreigners were arrested in various enforcement operations. Majority of those arrested are Chinese nationals caught in the act of engaging in illegal online gaming and cybercrime activities.

“Because of the pandemic and community quarantines imposed, there was a decrease in the movement of aliens,” said Morente. “A lot of foreign nationals also joined repatriation flights back to their home countries,” he added.

BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr. reported 32 Chinese nationals in Tarlac last December for illegally working in the country and involvement in cybercrimes. There are also 14 Indian nationals arrested for allegedly overstaying and being improperly documented.

Meanwhile, 14 South Korean and 2 Vietnamese were caught without permits and engaging in unauthorized business activities. AAC

Immigration authorities nab 332 illegal aliens

Marje Pelayo   •   December 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Sunday (December 6) reported the arrest of 332 foreign nationals working without appropriate visas in an operation launched by joint operatives of the BI and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday (December 2).

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said they received information from the NBI-International Operations Division about a worksite in Pag-asa Street, Barangay Dela Cruz, Bamban, Tarlac allegedly employing at least 200 undocumented aliens.

“Upon investigation and verification with our agents, we immediately issued a mission order to effect their arrest,” said Morente.

BI and NBI agents arrested in the operation 323 Chinese nationals; 8 Malaysian nationals; and 1 Indonesian found working by manning computers, using cellular phones, and other electronic devices, without proper working visas.

Morente said their operations reportedly involved online gambling, internet fraud, and cybercrime operations. 

“They were conducting clandestine operations. Their worksite was in a compound that was under construction, and they didn’t leave the premises as they already have their barracks there,” he added.

They face deportation for violation of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940

All 332 are currently under the physical custody of the NBI pending the filing of appropriate immigration charges and actual deportation.

Senate probe into PAGCOR’s alleged lobby for POGO’s quarantine exception sought

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros are calling on their fellow lawmakers to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation into the alleged lobbying of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to exclude Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) in the COVID-19 quarantine.

In a joint statement, Pangilinan and Hontiveros said they have recently filed Senate Resolution 396 after PAGCOR allowed POGOs to resume partial operations, subject to strict conditions, purportedly to boost government revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators said that the gaming regulator’s “actuations in lobbying for an exception in favor of the POGO industry threaten to unduly put the health and well-being of the Filipino people at risk by undermining the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).”

“Even going by the official estimate, allowing more than 50,000 workers in the online gambling industry to return to work represents a substantial exception to the ECQ rules,” they said.

PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo earlier argued that licensed POGOs should be allowed to resume operations as these are part of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.

BPOs have been allowed to operate amid the quarantine period.

Domingo earlier assured that before POGOs were allowed to resume partial operations, they would have to meet safety and health requirements.

But Pangilinan and Hontiveros both expressed apprehension that the partial reopening of POGO operations could “reverse the efforts put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19”as there is no assurance that POGOS will follow the Department of Health’s guidelines on physical distancing, wearing of masks, and frequent handwashing and sanitation.”

The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) have also rejected that POGOs are part of the BPO industry, citing four key differences:

  • BPO companies are registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) or the Board of Investments, while POGOs are registered with PAGCOR,
  • the offshoring nature of POGOs are allegedly because they are unable to practice their betting or gambling functions in their respective shores,
  • IT-enabled jobs BPO companies create are of much higher value, requiring a range of technical, domain, and soft skills, and
  • BPOs come to the Philippines to leverage off the country’s human capital, like strong English and technical skills, customer service orientation, malasakit, and ability to adapt to foreign cultures. On the other hand, majority of POGO staffing comes from foreign labor brought into the country to support their operations.

According to IBPAP, POGOs are not part of the annual IT-BPO Headcount and Revenue report, which in 2019 ended with 1.3 million direct employees and $26.3 billion in revenues, the senators said.

PAGCOR also argued that revenues from POGO operations can be a significant source of funds for the government’s COVID-19 response.

It also said that operators are ordered to pay all tax obligations up to March 2020 before they will be allowed to resume operations and only registered workers cleared in COVID-19 rapid tests to report back to work.

But Hontiveros and Pangilinan pointed out that during a Senate hearing in February 2020,

the Bureau of Internal Revenue revealed that POGOs failed to pay the government an estimated P50 billion in withholding and franchise taxes in 2019.

The senators said the uncollected taxes of POGOs could be a source of additional government funds for COVID-19 response.

“[But these] taxes need to be collected regardless of the industry’s status of operations during the community quarantine,” they said.

The senators also pointed out that the resumption of POGO operations will have minimal impact on the country’s economy.

They cited records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showing that the industry only accounts for 0.04% of the domestic economy.

Earlier this week, a group of House lawmakers filed a bill seeking to have POGOs declared illegal by prohibiting the operations of any offshore gaming by any means or device within Philippine territory.

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