(UPDATED) Seventeen Chinese nationals suspected of cybercrime operations were arrested during the service of a warrant of arrest in Lawaan, Barangay Balantang, Jaro District, Iloilo City at 4:10 a.m. Saturday, November 4, 2023.
The Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) conducted a joint operation to apprehend 17 Chinese nationals for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175) on November 4, 2023.
A joint-operation search warrant raid was conducted around 4:10 a.m. on Saturday at a two-story rented residence in Lawaan Village, 6th Street, 1st Lane, Barangay Balantang, Jaro, Iloilo City, allegedly violating Section 4(c) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which pertains to engaging in lascivious sexual activities with the aid of a computer system for compensation.
The joint team consisted of I Iloilo City Police Office's City Intelligence Unit (CIU), City Drug Enforcement Unit (CDEU), Iloilo City Mobile Force Company (ICMFC), Iloilo City Police Station 3 (ICPS3), and Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (Racu)-Western Visayas.
During the operation, electronic equipment and related items suspected to be linked to cybercrimes were seized, including 24 computer systems, two 24-port TP-Link switch hubs, two routers, four computers without keyboards and mice, one Acer projector, one monitor, two systems units, one HIKVISION DVR, one TP-Link Router, one Converge Modem, one computer system, 49 assorted cell phones, one bundle of SIM cards, and four boxes of SIM cards.
Authorities also discovered nude photos and videos of Filipinos and other nationalities, including live performances and recordings.
CIU Police Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Benitez Jr. said that the suspects have been operating for about six months.
Authorities have disclosed that a rigorous surveillance operation, spanning over a month, was conducted with the primary aim of apprehending these individuals.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas praised the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Iloilo City for their dedication to safety, following the successful apprehension of the 17 Chinese nationals.
"The PNP in the City of Iloilo is making sure that the city is safe for everyone. I commend the PNP for the apprehension of 17 Chinese nationals who were arrested allegedly for violation of Cybercrime Act. I will continue to give the strong support needed by the PNP for them to ensure that the city will be safe for everyone," Treñas said in a statement.
Barangay Balantang Kagawad Joel Jumayao said that the suspects are not permanent residents of their community and are reportedly just renting properties within the subdivision.
Jumayao also said that there were no applications or permits in place for foreign nationals operating businesses in the area, nor were there any formal engagements with barangay officials regarding this matter.
He added that the barangay council has not had official discussions or reports about the presence of Chinese foreign nationals renting properties and conducting business activities in the community, and officials are unaware of their activities.
Ernesto Balido, president of the homeowners' association in Lawaan Village, said that their attempts to address property issues were met with silence regarding the owner's identity, according to the caretaker of the house.
Balido clarified that the property owner is currently employed in a foreign country, leaving local residents with unanswered questions about the property's status and management. (SunStar Philippines)