HOW did Chinese businessman Jack Lam smuggle in more than a thousand Chinese nationals to work for his online gaming/BPO company inside the former Clark Airbase complex in Angeles, Pampanga?
I agree with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Joel Villanueva. The recent arrest of 1,296 illegal Chinese workers at Nextgame, an online gaming company owned by Lam, deserves a full-blown investigation.
It boggles the mind the ease by which 117 Indonesians were able to obtain Philippine passports for a fee. This fake passport scheme has been going on for years.
Once again, the mind boggles over the thousands of smuggled workers involved in this case.
Apparently, these illegal Chinese workers were found illegally working in the posh Fontana Casino and Leisure Park, in rows of cubicles with computers and headsets, similar to what one would find in a JP Morgan or IBM BPO company. The illegal Chinese employees were handling the accounts of Chinese gamers at Nextgame, Lam’s company. None of Jack Lam’s secret employees even speak a word of English.
The gall of Jack Lam and his cohorts!
Full credit must be given to the cybercrime unit of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration agents that busted Lam’s operations. According to lawyer Tonette Mangrobang, spokesperson of the Bureau of Immigration, the 1,296 Chinese nationals are now being detained at the Fontana Food Center.
It turns out that the Bureau of Immigration maintains only one detention facility for illegal aliens at Camp Bagong Diwa. Built to hold 120 detainees, the BI facility now has 161 detainees. That is one area that certainly needs to be addressed. The role of the Bureau of Immigration in protecting our borders must be reinforced through the allocation of more resources and personnel.
This case also brings to the fore a little-known fact: the Philippines does not have a law against human smuggling. We do have a comprehensive law against human trafficking. Unfortunately, these two crimes are not interchangeable.
Human trafficking focuses on exploitation. For this crime to be proved in court, three elements must be present: 1) the act (how was the victim recruited); 2) the means (how was the victim moved from one place to another); and 3) the purpose (was it for sex trafficking? organ trafficking? forced labor?).
It is in the purpose that most human trafficking cases fall, because the element of exploitation is difficult to prove, and often the victims have suffered too much trauma to even want to go through an extremely long trial period.
Human smuggling, on the other hand, has to do with the importation, transportation, and harboring of illegal aliens. I recall attending a conference many years ago where this topic was discussed and with it the need for legislation. Why would any foreigner want to be smuggled into the Philippines? Well, that was exactly what I thought back then.
Those gaming services must be raking in millions by the size of Lam’s staff complement. That he has been able to operate below the radar even with that many illegal workers for several months imply that this businessman has connections.
And we haven’t even gotten to the alleged bribery that Lam did.
Here is a man who his lawyer, Raymond Fortun, says cannot speak a word of English. Apparently though, he manages and controls the Fontana Casino and Leisure Park in Angeles, Pampanga. His connections with big-time casino junketeers and online “gamers” are considerable. That he even got a few minutes of face time with no less than Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre proves that this Lam is a man of many means.
Well, his world is about to shrink, bigtime.
President Rodrigo Duterte has given instructions for Jack Lam to be arrested. It would be interesting to see who are in this businessman’s contact list. Fortun has insisted to the media that his client is a legitimate businessman. What kind of businessman would smuggle in more than a thousand illegal workers?
This is more than just an immigration case. I find it insulting that in a region with hundreds and thousands of jobless residents, one finds a Chinese-owned company teeming with illegal foreign workers. How did they come in? Who brought them in? How much do they earn in wages? How much are their protectors being paid?
According to the Bureau of Immigration, the Chinese workers will soon be deported. I hope that the Senate steps in before this happens. We all deserve to know who Jack Lam is, and how the heck he was able to smuggle in thousands of Chinese workers. Immigration problems are part and parcel of our national security agenda. Turning a blind eye to this case would be like sending an open invitation to human smugglers to come to the Philippines where our borders are porous and a law prohibiting the smuggling of people has yet to be passed.