MANILA - The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) has arrested four members of an alleged illegal recruitment syndicate who promised their victims jobs in New Zealand.
Operatives of the CIDG Anti-Transnational Crimes Unit (ATCU) arrested on Monday morning Cristina Limun and Nathaniel Camacho in an entrapment operation in Sucat, Parañaque.
Edith Rico, another member of the alleged syndicate, was also nabbed in a follow-up operation in Quezon City.
In a separate operation on Tuesday, the group's leader, Marivel Equio, was arrested in Manila.
The ATCU conducted the operation against the suspects after 13 victims filed complaints against them.
Two of the victims, couple Romeo and Gemma Piscuela, said they were promised with farm and factory jobs in New Zealand, and were asked to pay up to P60,000 each for the placement fee, medical fee and processing fee.
They added that the suspects repeatedly asked for money but they were never deployed.
The victims said they eventually discovered that the group was not licensed with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to recruit overseas workers.
"Maraming tao na nagsasakripisyo para sa pamilya. Ang iba kinuhanan nila ng motor at house and lot para may pambayad. Binibigay at sinasangla sa kanila para may pambayad ng placement fee sa kanila, kaya dapat magbayad sila," Gemma said.
Her husband Romeo added: "Gusto naming mabulok sila sa bilangguan. Hindi kami makikipag-areglo. Hindi kami papayag. Itutuloy namin ang kaso. Andami na nilang niloko."
The four suspects will be charged with illegal recruitment and estafa.
"Ngayon lang ako nagtanggap niyan kasi nakiusap si Ma'am Marivel dahil malayo daw siya. Nakiusap lang siya, kunin ko raw ang pera at ibalik sa kaniya," Limun said as she denied the allegations that she is part of the syndicate.
"Ang akala po namin totoo ang lahat. Sino ba ang ayaw sa commission? Housewife lang ako, kaya kailangan din ng commission. Kung totoo man, bakit hindi eh magandang hanapbuhay naman yon," Rico said after confirming that she did work as an agent for the group.
"May opisina kami sa New Zealand. Dito sa Pilipinas wala. Ang company ay di registered sa POEA dahil direct hire kami," said Equio.
Police Supt. Roque Medergia, chief of CIDG-ATCU, said the alleged illegal recruitment syndicate started its operation in 2016.
Its victims have numbered to more than 60 nationwide, most of whom are from Luzon, he said.
The group's leader, Marivel Equio, was also arrested for illegal recruitment charges in July last year, but was eventually cleared after the complainants lost interest in pursuing the case.
It was later learned that Equio settled the case with the complainants.
"Pinaentrap ako ng isang bakla noon. Gusto nyang mag-abroad. Hindi nag-ano ang kaso. Kinlear ako kasi nagbayad ako. Binalik ko ang binigay nila sakin kahit walang resibo. Tig-P30,000 sila. Tatlo sila," Equio explained.
"May record na kami nya. Marami ang nagcomplain sa kanya before. Nasampahan pa namin ng kaso pero magaling eh, binayaran nya ang complainants kaya nadismiss ang kaso," the CIDG-ATCU chief said.
He also advised the public to be wary of such modus operandi.
"Huwag maniwala sa direct hiring. Kelangan nyo pa rin pumasok sa agency. Huwag magpadala sa mga pangakong mataas ang sahod at magagandang trabaho."
Merdegia called on victims of illegal recruiters to cooperate with authorities and give information to the ATCU through the following numbers: 09498652400 or 09166176969.