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Solons press House to look into spate of sex trafficking, prostitution in wake of POGOs

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By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality has been urged to look into the proliferation of prostitution rings victimizing women for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers.

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

Gabriela party-list Representative Arlene Brosas led the filing of House Resolution (HR) No. 604 urging the House panel, chaired by Bukidnon Rep. Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba, to look into the rising cases of prostitution and human trafficking in the country.

“Such proliferation of Chinese prostitution rings demonstrates the social implications of the expanding POGO sector in the country on the top of the economic losses incurred by the national government due to non-payment of taxes by illegal Chinese POGO workers,” she said in filing HR 604.

She said authorities have busted prostitution rings in Metro Manila catering exclusively to Chinese workers in POGO sector.

“The prostitution rings are usually disguised as karaoke bars and wellness centers, or operating within hotels and condominiums in Metro Manila, with transactions facilitated through social media,” she said.

Brosas said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in October rescued 91Chinese and four Filipino women from a karaoke bar in Makati City that served as a sex den for Chinese clients.

She said based on the raids, the victims were Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Filipino women.

“The Chinese sex dens usually charge P15,000 for Filipina escort services and P20,000 to P30,000 for Chinese escorts,” she said.

There are 58 accredited POGOs in the country employing some 138,000 workers catering primarily to mainland Chinese gamblers, Brosas said.

“There is an urgent need to address the rising cases of prostitution and human trafficking alongside the growth of POGOs in the country, and the need to enforce and strengthen laws against sexual violence and human trafficking victimizing women,” the two-page resolution reads.

“The Philippines cannot just take pride in being top one in gender equality ranking in Asia while turning a blind eye to the abuse and victimization of Asian women in the illicit operations of POGOs within the country,” it adds.

Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite; ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago joined Brosas in filing HR No. 64.

Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo earlier filed a similar resolution calling on the Lower Chamber to look into the “alarming” proliferation of prostitution dens catering exclusively to POGO workers.

Hipolito-Castelo said the act of prostitution or exploration of others is punishable under Article 202(5) of the Revised Penal Code and under Republic Act No. 9208 as amended, or the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.”

“It is alarming that there are existing establishments in Metro Manila that cater exclusively to POGO workers, palpably demonstrating the situation that these workers are building a community in our country little by little,” she said.

“The influx of these POGO workers in our country are also saddled with various immigration and labor issues, as some of these foreigners stay here without valid travel documents and work permits,” she added.

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