POGO probe deepens: Philippine passports offered to Chinese via WeChat

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2020 04:31 PM | Updated as of Mar 02 2020 04:32 PM

The Philippine Passport. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Some Chinese-run travel agencies in the Philippines dangle local passports, birth certificates and bank accounts to their compatriots on WeChat, in another criminal racket, a Senate inquiry uncovered on Monday.

The agents also peddle "de-listing from blacklists and airport release if barred entry" to Chinese tourists planning to travel to the Philippines, said Sen. Risa Hontiveros, showing screen captures of the advertisement.

"They can even give Philippine passports to Chinese tourists... Obviously, these are criminal acts," Hontiveros said. "Two agencies are advertising these criminal services freely," she said.

Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, earlier uncovered a prostitution racket targeting Chinese expatriates, also allegedly run on WeChat.

Hontiveros summoned and questioned a certain Empire Travel Agency over its alleged influence in the Bureau of Immigration.

Informants alleged that Empire's boss Liya Wu has been "very generous" by giving branded items to some Immigration officials, Hontiveros said.

Wu, who was present at the hearing, belied the accusations. She said her 22-year-old travel agency never facilitated the entry of Chinese workers in POGO or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations.

Empire doesn't have its own office inside the Bureau of Immigration headquarters in Intramuros, she said.

The Department of Tourism will start reviewing several travel agencies that may be offering illegal services for Chinese tourists, Tourism director Rowena Montecillo told the Senate panel.

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality is expected to hold another hearing next week on the illegal entry of POGO workers in the Philippines.