Prostitution dens now selling ‘products’ via online messaging

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    PROSTITUTION in the country has gone one notch more creative and discreet: Chinese den operators now offer their “products” via online messaging applications, a Senate committee hearing exposed yesterday.

    Sen. Risa Hontiveros told colleagues that online prostitution became widely used following the influx of Chinese workers employed in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs).

    Hontiveros, chairwoman of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, made her statement as she convened the hearing on Senate Resolution 131seeking to introduce measures to address POGO-related sexual trafficking activities in Metro Manila.

    Tuesday’s hearing exposed a menu of sex services offered by prostitution den operators to their clients through messaging apps Telegram and WeChat.

    Citing witness testimonies and data culled from under-cover surveillance activities, Hontiveros presented during the hearing photos of trafficked Chinese women passed around through the Telegram and WeChat apps, per-hour rates and codes used for the “orders.”

    “Lucrative ang business, may menu of services, parang restoran. ‘Yung mga babae, parang inoorder lang sa app ng mga Chinese members ng chat group. Parang Grabfood, may menu, may presyo, then darating na lang sa hotel o condo mo (The business is lucrative.

    There is a menu of services similar to a restaurant. Women are being ordered thru an app by Chinese who are members of the chat group. It is like the Grabfood app which posts the restaurant’s menu and their meal and food prices, which will be delivered right at your doorstep),” Hontiveros said.

    She flashed screenshots from alleged chat groups showing massage with “extra job” home services of Chinese women for a low of P3,000 to as high as P12,000 per hour. Other chat groups offer Russian and Korean women to the tune of P13,000 per hour to P45,000 for overnight service.

    Hontiveros presented “Carina,” a 15-year-old Filipina who was among those rescued in recent police operations from a Chinese-run prostitution den. Carina testified in a live feed from another room in the Senate building.

    Carina said she and other women were kept by a Chinese in a house in Makati City and were sent to Chinese clients in exchange for P6,000, an amount that increases if they spend the whole night with the client.

    Carina, however, said that half of the money paid by the client goes to the Chinese handler.

    To book the pimped women, the Chinese super app WeChat use codes such as “new tea” for girls and “fast food” for quickie sex to go-around China’s anti-prostitution laws, the senator also said.

    Hontiveros said customers are mostly Chinese, but there are also Japanese, Korean, and Indian clients.

    The Philippines in recent years saw rise in the number of Chinese expatriates, who work mostly in POGOs.

    Police have recently clamped down on mostly Chinese-run prostitution dens in Metro Manila and rescued foreign prostitutes who supposedly entered the country using visa upon arrival stamps, which has a validity of three months and can be extended for another three months.

    Hontiveros said Chinese den operators apparently shifted to using the internet to avoid detection and arrest.

    “Hindi puwedeng nagiging pugad tayo ng Chinese prostitution dens (We cannot become a haven of prostitution dens),” she said.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Malacañang will look into the reported proliferation of prostitution dens that cater to POGOs operating in the country.

    “We will have that investigated. If that’s true, then we have to do something about it,” Panelo said, stressing that prostitution should be stopped and owners of such dens be arrested and prosecuted.

    Hontiveros called on the Bureau of Immigration to suspend the visa upon arrival program for Chinese national and urged the National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP to conduct a more rigid crackdown on prostitution dens trafficking Filipino, Chinese, Korean and Russian women, among others.

    She said she is also studying to recommend the suspension of all POGO operations in the country while reviewing the economic implications as well as ensuring that there are safety nets in place to protect women and children. – With Jocelyn Montemayor