Immigration bureau seeks to deport 500 foreign workers nabbed in Parañaque anti-fraud raid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) – Immigration officials are seeking to deport hundreds of foreign nationals working in the Philippines without appropriate permits that were arrested by police and immigration officials Wednesday night.

Acting on a tip from Chinese police, elements of the National Capital Region Police Office Regional Special Operations Unit supported by immigration operatives raided the offices of a certain Golden Unicom Technology Inc. located at an office building near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City.

A total of 542 Asian nationals were arrested in the raid; 442 of them were Chinese, 45 came from Myanmar, 25 from Malaysia, 23 from Vietnam, four from Taiwan, and three from Indonesia, according to the Bureau of immigration (BI). Meanwhile, police data showed 512 were arrested — 418 Chinese nationals and 94 other nationalities.

The BI said Thursday they are working to file deportation charges against these improperly documented workers. They are currently in the custody of the Metro Manila police at Bicutan in Taguig City.

“We are currently doing the booking procedures so we would be starting the deportation charges against them,” BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente clarified that the agency has the power to sanction foreign nationals should they see issues in immigration.

“If the alien committed a criminal act, it is under the jurisdiction of the local authorities,” said Morente. “But if we see that there is an immigration violation, we may charge for deportation separately.”

However, he added that these workers may still face the possibility of imprisonment in the country before getting deported.

“It is within our policy not to implement deportation unless local cases are cleared already. If the alien needs to serve time in our local jails then so be it, this is to ensure the full effect of justice,” he said in a statement.

Telecom fraud

Initial investigation by police showed that the foreign workers were allegedly part of a telecommunications investment fraud scheme. Metro Manila Police chief PMGEN Guillermo Eleazar said the fraud scheme uses online identity theft techniques, such as phishing, to target its victims.

“Through their transaction with the targets, or mga navi-victimize nila, 'yun 'yung kanilang naloloko through investment and other fraud,” Eleazar said.

He added, “Kung dito sa atin sa Pilipinas, ito 'yung tinatawag na budol-budol pero with the use of communication technology.”

[Translation: They victimize people through transaction with their intended targets. They trick them using investments and other forms of fraud. It’s like how swindlers extort money from Filipinos, but this one uses communication technology.”]

Company officials and the Chinese police refused to speak to reporters, but company officials said Golden Unicom operated for only two weeks before the raid was conducted.

Police are now determining the identity of the company owners, and checking if any Filipinos were involved in its operations. Paranaque City administrator Ding Soriano said the company officials may be held liable for misrepresenting their applications for business permits.

Eleazar said they will coordinate with the Chinese embassy for the possible deportation of all the arrested Chinese nationals to face criminal charges in their homeland, while they will also coordinate with the embassies of the other foreigners arrested. He added that Chinese officials are already arranging chartered flights to transport the Chinese workers. They will also coordinate with the embassies of the other foreigners arrested.

Golden Unicom's tax documents and the Mayor's Permit both showed it is a customer service and call center company.

Soriano also said the city government will recommend the closure of Golden Unicom’s office.

The city government is also set to create a special action committee that will monitor the presence of Chinese-owned businesses in the area, with support from local government offices, police, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Chinese embassy.

Tourist entry

Sandoval explained that some of the illegal workers entered the Philippines through a tourist visa without the required labor documents.

“They [misrepresented] themselves. They have the complete documents showing that they are a tourist but their intent is different from the documentation that they have,” Sandoval relayed.

For this year, the BI has already arrested more than 900 improperly documented foreign workers apart from yesterday’s haul.

Sandoval surmised that a syndicate may be behind the shady employment.

“This is more than 500 foreign nationals. To set up as as something as big as this, I guess this is from a syndicate,” she said.

Sandoval maintained that the BI has strict measures in monitoring against illegal entry and improper documentation of foreign nationals in the country.

“We already have a thorough screening. For the past year, we have already barred the entry of around more than 4,000 individuals who were found to have misrepresented themselves,” she shared.

However, she admitted that the bureau needs more manpower.

She added that “We would need help actually, because really the Bureau of Immigration is short-staffed.” The BI only has 1,900 personnel nationwide, Sandoval lamented.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer Janine Peralta contributed to this report.