November 25, 2022
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros has claimed that the Chinese mafia is planning to establish a team of Filipino scammers in Myanmar, and has even suggested that this organization may be affiliated with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Hontiveros made the disclosure after 12 Filipinos working abroad were saved from a human trafficking ring said to be based in China and operating in Myanmar on a massive scale. The senator said that Filipinos were being considered for their English skills.
“Ang pinakamalalang naibahagi sa atin ng isa sa mga na-rescue, at warning na rin ito sa ating mga ahensya at sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Pilipinas: May namumuong masamang plano ang Chinese mafia na ito na gawing all-Filipino team ang mga scammer nila sa Myanmar at iba pang lugar dahil sa ating English proficiency,” she said during the plenary session at the Senate.
(The biggest information that was shared with us by one of those rescued, and this should also serve as a warning to our government agencies and to our countrymen here in the Philippines: There is a brewing mischievous plan by this Chinese mafia to form an all-Filipino team of scammers in Myanmar and other areas because of our English proficiency.)
“This is why I stand before you today because this is of extreme importance and urgency,” she added in her privileged speech.
The opposition senator then mentioned a likely link between the mafia and Pharmally, which was under scrutiny by legislators for supplying the government with allegedly overpriced medical supplies.
“Lastly, in a disturbing development, we also found out that the exact area where they were, Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone or Yatai New City, owned by Yatai International Holdings Group – a hub described as a ‘safe haven for online gambling and fraud operators’ – may possibly have a connection to the Pharmally players,” said Hontiveros.
“A company named Yatai International Corporation is associated with Linconn Ong. Pareho lang kaya ang Yatai International Corporation and Yatai International Holdings Group? Para kaya itong ‘yung Pharmally International Holdings, Pharmally Biological company at Pharmally Pharmaceutical company?” she asked.
(Are Yatai International Corporation and Yatai International Holdings Group the same? Is this like the Pharmally International Holdings, Pharmally Biological company, and Pharmally Pharmaceutical company?)
To recall, Linconn Ong is the director of Pharmally.
Meanwhile, according to Hontiveros, Yatai International Holdings Group owner She Zhijang, arrested last month in Thailand, has multiple commercial interests in the Philippines.
“These links must be brought to light and further investigated,” she stressed.
The camp of Ong urged Hontiveros to “take a second look at her pronouncements.”
Ong’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, claims that “Yatai” is a typical Chinese phrase for “Asia Pacific.”
“The use of the said generic term does not necessarily signify any business connection between or among those using the same or similar business name,” Topacio told INQUIRER.net in a message.
“The company mentioned by the good Senator and named Yatai International Holdings Group is not connected with Yatai International Corporation in any shape, manner or form. The said entity is totally unknown to our client,” he went on.
In addition, Hontiveros cautioned the general public to be wary of communications from unknown senders.
She warned that advertisements for jobs abroad that specifically seek Filipino workers are widespread on the internet.
Human trafficking victims are subjected to “sexual and romantic relationships” online in an effort to convince their clients to invest and prevent physical harm, Hontiveros added.
“Hindi biro ang mga nakukuhang text ng mga OFWs kapag hindi sila nakakakuha ng kliyente,” Hontiveros lamented.
(The text messages that OFWs receive when they do not get a client are not a joke.)
“Bukod sa overtime, pinagbabantaan silang pagagawin ng 1,000 squats, pagbubuhatin ng balde-baldeng tubig, hahatawin ng electric baton, babatuhin, at sasaksakin hanggang mamatay,” she said.
(Aside from overtime, they are threatened to do 1,000 squats, carry pails of water, be whipped with an electric baton, be thrown, and be stabbed until they die.)
Hontiveros called on the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to look into the matter.
She also urged the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to launch a national information drive against scam job offers online.
The senator likewise asked the DMW, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to provide assistance to trafficking victims.
The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police Cybercrime Divisions were also pushed to probe and track down the administrator of Facebook pages and Telegram groups that are involved in such operations.