Nine Korean sex tourists have been arrested in Cebu under anti human trafficking laws.
The group was detained by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents for allegedly engaging in sexual relations with women aged 19 to 21 who were employed by a Korea-based escort service company.
The tour was arranged by a group of three Koreans and a local Filipina, who sold 250,000 peso sex tour packages over the internet, which constitutes a human trafficking offence in the Philippines.
The arrested Koreans, all in their forties and fifties, were caught in bed with their escorts in a beachfront hotel in Barangay Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City, at about 1am on Friday.
Speaking to the Cebu Daily News, NBI special investigator Arnel Pura said: “The suspects are part of what we called sex tourism which prey on Cebuanas. We received an information about their operations so we hatched a plan to arrest them.”
Charges will be filed against the suspects for violating Section 11 of Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which prohibits anyone from “engaging the services of a trafficked person.”
Three other Koreans only identified as Choi, Andy and Kim as well as their local contact Maribeth Bontog are also facing qualified trafficking charges for recruiting the women. The four, however, remain at large.
South Korea Consul General in Cebu, Sung Yong Oh, has offered to provide the suspects with whatever support they needed. “Our consulate was informed of these concern by the NBI and has been extending consular support to Korean nationals. We also cooperate with the NBI in the investigation,” he said.
The arrest operation was conducted in co-ordination with the Cebu Provincial Women’s Commission headed by Vice Governor Agnes Magpale.
“I’m happy that this kind of activity got busted. Like illegal drugs, we might not be able to eradicate sex tourism but at least we are doing something to stop it,” she said.
Mrs Magpale said that the men’s 25,000 peso travel package included transportation, accommodation and a selected local sex partner.
The women, residents of the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, were paid 2,000 pesos per day for the three-day tour.
Special investigator Pura said: “There’s actually a private website which is exclusive for Koreans. The website serves as the platform from which the transactions are being carried out such as payments, plane tickets, accommodation, sites to be visited and other related concerns.”
The package, he said, includes providing Filipina partners who are selected by the tourist from a photo gallery in the website.
The escorts have been released without charge. “They are no longer minors so we allowed them to go home. They promised to come back during the filing of the charges against the suspects,” Mr Pura said.
He said the suspects are now held at the NBI-7 detention facility and would be formally charged before the Cebu Regional Trial Court on Monday.
The accused have the right to post bail, but the NBI will ask the Bureau of Immigration to issue a ‘hold departure order’ against the nine tourists while the charges against them are still to be resolved by the court.
If found guilty, the men could face prison terms of six to 12 years.