Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday revealed that human trafficking syndicates are luring Filipinos to work as crypto scammers in Cambodia, where they are forced to dupe foreigners to invest in cryptocurrencies.
The disclosure comes months after Hontiveros exposed the activities of Chinese syndicates allegedly recruiting Filipinos for shady call center jobs in Myanmar.
“Filipinos are becoming the main target of human trafficking syndicates. Matapos nating matulungan ang ilang Pinoy sa Myanmar na inaabuso at sapilitang pinagtrabaho bilang crypto scammer, ngayon, malalaman nating meron din palang ganitong modus sa Cambodia,” the senator said.
[Translation: After helping some Filipinos in Myanmar who were abused and forced to work as crypto scammers, now we are hearing that this modus operandi also exists in Cambodia.]
“These fraud factories are part of a disturbing industry that has to be dismantled,” she added.
Hontiveros said she discovered the human trafficking case from “Miles,” one of the victims who was able to return to the country and seek assistance for other distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Cambodia.
In Hontiveros’ statement, Miles recalled they were initially offered customer service or call center jobs, but were eventually forced to scam citizens from countries such as the United States and Canada out of their life savings.
The victim said those who were unable to get clients were forced to work for more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week. He said they were even electrocuted.
Miles, according to Hontiveros, belonged to a group of Filipinos rescued by Cambodian authorities on Monday. Since Tuesday night, they have been held at a police station with no beds and basic facilities.
“Clearly, this is an industrial complex that involves various actors from around Southeast Asia and beyond. Baka kone-konektado ang mga kriminal na nang-aabuso at nananamantala ng mga Pilipinong nais lamang maghanap ng disenteng trabaho [Maybe the criminals who abuse and exploit Filipinos who just want to find decent jobs are all connected],” the senator said.
Hontiveros said she has written to the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the victims’ repatriation and appealed to the agency to work closely with member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in stopping these syndicates.