Chinese embassy mum on POGO-linked prostitution: Hontiveros

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2020 10:55 AM | Updated as of Mar 04 2020 11:16 AM

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MANILA — The Chinese embassy has yet to reply to Sen. Risa Hontiveros' 2-week-old request for help for Chinese women who were allegedly forced into prostitution in local gambling hubs, which her Senate committee is investigating, she said Wednesday. 

Hontiveros said she wrote to the Chinese embassy to ask for information and help in rehabilitating the trafficked Chinese women, including one who was "recycled" back into prostitution after Philippine authorities rescued her. 

"Ang nakakalungkot talaga, hanggang sa ngayong umaga... wala pang sagot. Naghihintay sana tayo ng tulong," she told DZMM. 

(It's sad that until this morning, there is no reply yet. We were waiting for help.) 

Aside from prostitution, allegations of corruption and bribery have also hounded the mostly Chinese-run Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator industry. 

The Senate probe led by Hontiveros had seen several immigration officers accused of pocketing P10,000 for every Chinese national they allowed to enter the country as tourists and work later in POGOs, under the so-called "pastillas" bribery scheme, named after rolls of grease money resembling a sweet delicacy. 

Sen. Richard Gordon was also quoted as saying in media reports that China might be using POGOs for espionage and that some of its workers could be assuming the identity of dead Filipinos. 

The Philippines should suspend all POGO operations, including legal hubs, while weighing their costs and benefits, said Hontiveros. 

"Mukhang kailangan kahit temporary muna, total suspension sa POGO operations habang kinukuwenta natin iyong cost-benefit analysis d'yan. Habang dumadaan iyong hearing namin, mukhang bumibigat iyong side ng timbangan sa cost," she said. 

(It appears that we need a temporary, total suspension of POGO operations while we calculate their the cost-benefit analysis there. As ours hearings progress, the weighing scales get heavier for the cost.) 

Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, she said, would be summoned to the next Senate hearing to answer special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo's allegation that he pocketed a cut of the supposed "pastillas" scheme bribes.