A Taiwanese national who was trafficked into the country to work for a Philippine offshore gaming company (POGO) has alleged that a powerful government official is protecting her former employers, one of whom she accused of sexually assaulting her.
Accompanied by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who heads the Senate committee on women, 23-year-old victim Lai Yu Cian tearfully told the media today that she was recruited from Taiwan and promised a job in advertising, but learned that she would actually be doing admin work for a POGO upon arrival in Manila, GMA News reports. It was there, she alleged, that she was made to work up to 24 hours at a stretch, and was treated like “a slave.”
“I already told them I want to go home,” she said. “I want to go back to Taiwan. But they forced me to work for them. They always say that they have a protector behind them who is government people.”
Lai said her passport was seized by her employers, and that they kept refusing to return it to her, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
“I think, even [if] I run away they will still find me. Every time my boss, when he is mad, he always shouted in Chinese, saying ‘You are now my staff, I already bought you from [the] other boss.’ So they say I have to work for them,” she said.
“I even tell them that… ‘I just want my passport; if you don’t give my salary, it’s okay.’ [But] they still keep lying to me.”
Lai said one of her bosses would grope her and publicly embarrass her in the workplace if she refused to work, reports ABS-CBN News. She also alleged that the POGO enjoyed the protection of a certain government employee named Michael Yang, who coincidentally shares the same name as President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic adviser. Senator Hontiveros said they have yet to verify if the presidential adviser and the alleged POGO protector are one and the same.
“I heard about [him] once or twice when my supervisor got mad at me; they mention Michael Yang… He didn’t explain to me. He just shouts that at me,” Lai said.
Lai was later rescued by the authorities in a Mandaluyong raid early this month, and is appealing to Taiwanese diplomatic representatives for help so she can return to her home country.
Hontiveros presented Lai to the media because the senator is pushing for the suspension of POGO operations, blaming them for a rise of prostitution, trafficking, kidnapping, and other crimes in the neighborhoods where they are located. Hontiveros is not the only Filipino politician to draw the connection — Makati Mayor Abby Binay has temporarily stopped granting permits to POGOs for the same reason.
In a Senate hearing conducted late last month, Hontiveros even alleged that Chinese women working in brothels were pimped to POGO employees using social media apps.
POGOs are companies that offer online gaming services to foreign clients, most of whom are Chinese. Many of them opened in key cities in the country after President Rodrigo Duterte came into power, in part because of his government’s warm relationship with Beijing. In November several government agencies shut down a handful of POGOs in Parañaque City for tax evasion.