A group of repatriated Filipinos who were trafficked to work in a cryptocurrency scam in Myanmar are preparing to file a lawsuit against the recruiter responsible for facilitating their hiring process. The Philippine embassy’s police attaché in Thailand confirmed that three of the six victims intend to take legal action against a certain individual known as “Jaylo Ramos.” However, the complex nature of the case, which involved recruitment in the Philippines, transit through Thailand, and work in Myanmar, presents challenges for filing the lawsuit.
Myanmar’s unstable government further complicates the situation, making it difficult to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable. The survivors are eager to return home, but a Burmese investigation would require them to stay in Myanmar for an extended period. Meanwhile, the Philippine authorities are collaborating with the survivors to gather evidence for the case build-up.
According to Colonel Dominador Matalang, the police attaché, it is challenging to file a case against the Chinese employers involved in the cryptocurrency scam because the victims do not possess their complete real names. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Burmese authorities would be able to verify the identities of the companies the victims worked for. Colonel Matalang also revealed that approximately 150 Filipinos are still working in cryptocurrency scams in Myanmar, based on estimates from the 93 rescued Filipinos. To help identify potential victims, the public is encouraged to report the names of their relatives in Myanmar who may be at risk of recruitment to the Department of Foreign Affairs or local police.
The group of six Filipinos, consisting of four women and two men, initially sought assistance from Philippine authorities, but four individuals decided to stay behind due to fear, subsequently withdrawing their rescue request. The government has been working with non-government organizations to facilitate the rescue operations since negotiations with Myanmar’s military junta pose diplomatic challenges. Survivor testimonies from the recently repatriated group align with those previously shared by survivors who testified in Senate hearings investigating the trafficking of Filipinos to work in cryptocurrency scams across Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar and Cambodia. The survivors described grueling working conditions, extended hours, and inadequate pay.
The survivors initially believed they would be working as tech support and sales agents in Thailand, but they were deceived and taken across the Moei River into Myanmar. After six months of exploitation, their employers demanded a ransom of P300,000 each from their families. The survivors were subjected to physical abuse, confinement, and starvation. Their employer used wire to bind them, forcing them to stand for 24 hours and denying them food and sleep. The survivors recounted the traumatic experiences they endured while their captors filmed the abuse. Only three of the six victims managed to pay the full ransom, with one family plunging into debt to secure their loved one’s release. Additionally, each victim had to pay 18,000 baht (P29,700) for immigration fees, which covered their transfer from Myanmar to Mae Sot in Thailand.
The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission is collaborating with telecommunications companies and Meta to establish a task force to combat cybercrime. Since cryptocurrency scams are cyber-related crimes, the commission has been empowered to pursue the perpetrators. The Senate investigations have also uncovered the presence of cryptocurrency scam hubs within the Philippines, highlighting the need for comprehensive efforts to address this issue domestically.