NBI-7 entrapment operation nets 9 illegal recruitment suspects in Talisay

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Nine suspects were arrested for an illegal recruitment scheme promising work at coconut and mango plantations in Australia as a result of an entrapment operation in Barangay Pooc, Talisay City, Cebu on Sunday, May 12. | NBI-7 Photos

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CEBU CITY, Philippines —A total of nine individuals landed in jail after they were arrested in an entrapment operation at a beach resort in Barangay Pooc, Talisay City, Cebu, last Sunday, May 12, for being part of a syndicate conducting large-scale illegal recruitment activities across Cebu province.

The group is accused of illegally recruiting hundreds of victims under the guise of “orientation/seminar” and promising them “non-existent” farm work at coconut and mango plantations in Australia.

The entrapment operation was conducted at around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7).

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The alleged mastermind of the scheme was identified as Alice Dumdum Rondez, a resident of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Balamban, Cebu.

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Meanwhile, Cristina Arcilla was tagged as the cashier who received the money in the syndicate’s operation. Also arrested were Glenard Musngi, Leon Alegado, Elisa Tonacao, Lemuel Ahito, Levert Fuentes, Librada Jumanguin, and Jocelyn Resaba.

The group was found to have been enlisting, canvassing, advertising, and collecting sums of money from victims who were under the impression that they would be employed at coconut and mango plantations in Australia.

NBI-7 director Lawyer Renan Augustus Oliva narrated during a press conference on Wednesday, May 15, that the entrapment operation stemmed from the complaints of around 40 victims, which started in September 2023.

The investigation revealed that the victims were recruited for “non-existent” jobs in Australia and that seminars were previously conducted in Asturias, Tuburan, Balamban, Lapu-Lapu City, and Talisay City.

Oliva stated that each applicant was required to pay an entrance fee of P100-200, a “vlogging” fee of P500, a seminar fee of P1,500, and P500 for a t-shirt.

The applicants paid this amount and surrendered their cellphones as they attended the seminars, which were held every Sunday at different locations.

Moreover, they were told to undergo “vlogging,” wherein they were made to wear a straw hat and read a prepared narration while being filmed.

The footage was allegedly made to be sent to the employer in Australia. After some time, former applicants became recruiters, organizers, and team leaders as the group exponentially grew.

During the operation on Sunday, NBI-7 agents posed as new applicants and witnessed Rondez and her team in the act.

Oliva added that 108 individuals attended the seminar in Talisay on Sunday. In a previous seminar also in Talisay, there were 983 attendees.

He also disclosed that the modus of the syndicate is similar to pyramiding, wherein each victim is made to recruit more applicants with the assurance that they will be given priority.

According to Oliva, the Department of Migrant Workers has issued a certification stating that the suspects are not authorized to recruit workers for employment abroad.

The investigation also revealed that the leader was a former employee of an agency that processes student visas to Australia.

Rondez was terminated, however, because she was conducting her own recruitment activities without the knowledge of the company.

Despite her termination, Rondez has allegedly been using the agency’s name to recruit individuals for work with her own team.

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Oliva said that the suspects were subjected to inquest proceedings on Tuesday, May 14, at the Talisay City Prosecutor’s Office.

They were charged with large-scale illegal recruitment, which is non-bailable.

This case, however, is separate from those who filed complaints at the NBI-7 from previous orientations/seminars by the syndicate.

Oliva said that they will be filing those cases regularly at each of the towns where the victims were recruited.

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As the seminars were mostly held at barangay gymnasiums, NBI-7 will also be looking into whether personnel of the local government units should be held liable.

As of this writing, the nine suspects are temporarily detained at the custodial facility of the NBI CEVRO office. However, Oliva said that there are more members of the syndicate who are still at large.

With the arrest of Rondez and her accomplices, Oliva said that they are hoping other victims of the syndicate will come forward and formally file complaints.

One of the victims, Leonardo Sedurifa, 58, said that after a month of being recruited in March this year, he received countless messages telling him to recruit other applicants.

Because of this, he began to grow suspicious and started researching the content of the seminars.

During each seminar, the organizer would allegedly talk about the opportunities and the salary the applicants would be given in a persuasive manner.

It was not made clear, however, when they would be able to leave for Australia, and applicants were only told that they would be receiving a call.

He added that there were victims who started in 2017 but never got the job.

Another victim, Pearly Tumbiga, 44, said that they communicated the venues for the seminars every week through a group chat on Facebook.

She said that she had no idea that she was being scammed as she was determined to work abroad.

She began to be suspicious, however, when the venues for the seminars kept changing and they were being rushed to pay the fees.

Sedurifa paid around P2,000 while Tumbiga lost P7,000 because of the scheme.

Tumbiga said that she took part in the recruitment because her team leader said that they would be able to leave once they reached the quota of 3,000 applicants.

After finding out the promised work did not exist, she felt apologetic towards the many individuals she invited.

“Sobrang hirap kasi yung pera, inutang ko. Yung ibang mga kasama ko, inutang lang mga pera nila. So paano na ang pamilya diba? Ang hirap ng ganun,” stated Tumbiga.

While the arrested women opted not to comment on the arrest, three other suspects—Alegado, Fuentes, and Ahito—claimed that they were innocent in front of local media.

The three men said that they were only applicants who volunteered to stand by the entrance and guide the new recruits last Sunday.

“Ang among purpose, makalarga lagi unta kung naay opportunity. Mao ra man na amoang tuyo. Wa man mi ingon nga nagbuhat mi diha og dautan. Tinarong man tanan ang among gibuhat sa among mga kaigsuonan. Nishare ra man sad sa ubang aplikante sad nga ni-apply pareha namo,” stated Ahito.

“Unta matabangan mi sa among sitwasyon karon. Sa among pagka-inosente aning sitwasyon, palihug tabangi mi ninyo. Biktima ra pud mi,” added Alegado.

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