MANILA - Philippine police rescued 29 women and arrested five people accused of illegally supplying mail-order brides to South Korea, an official said Thursday.
Police raided a house in Bacoor, near Manila, on Wednesday following a tip-off from a government agency that documented complaints by earlier victims, said Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta.
"We have rescued 29 (Filipinas) who were duped into promises of an instant wealthy life through marriage with Korean gentlemen," Villasanta, head of a police organised crime task force, said in a statement.
"(In) most cases, they ended up (on) the losing end after becoming victims of grave abuses," he added.
The act of matching Filipinas for marriage to foreign nationals on a mail-order basis was outlawed by the Philippines in 1990, with jail terms of up to eight years for those convicted of the crime.
A 2003 statute later classified the crime as human trafficking, with jail terms of up to 20 years for violators.
However, Villasanta said many Filipinas are still swift to enter into whirlwind marriages with strangers in a bid to leave their impoverished country for job opportunities abroad.
Nearly 10 million Filipinos, or about a tenth of the population, live and work abroad.
The women are displayed in catalogues in South Korea, some of them online, Villasanta said.
In many cases however, victims were fed false information about the background of their future spouse and family and suffered abuse after the marriage.
These led to "abandonment of the marital home, separation and divorce", the task force statement said.
It said the Philippine embassy in Seoul had received many complaints from Filipinas who had married through mail-order.
Police were tipped off about the Bacoor-based gang's operation by a government commission that looks into the welfare of Filipinos working abroad, Villasanta said.
Police did not release the names of the five suspects, who also included three Filipinos.
The suspects had violated both the laws against matching brides by mail order and against human trafficking, police said.