Nabbed Chinese nationals question preliminary probe by DOJ
The Chinese nationals arrested at Jack Lam’s Fontana Resort and Casino were victims of illegal recruitment and fishing expedition by Philippine government authorities.
In the joint counter-affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Chinese nationals, through their lawyers Jonathan Sarte and Irene Bianca Distura, questioned the conduct of preliminary investigation by the DOJ.
They pointed out that the raiding team at Fontana’s Villa 736 was led by the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime, the same office that filed the complaint for illegal gambling and violation of the Cybercrime Law before the DOJ.
“The DOJ is therefore acting as complainant, prosecutor and judge, all at the same time. As such, we do not expect to have a fair proceeding and we believe that this is a blatant violation of our right to due process,” the counter-affidavit of the 39 Chinese nationals stated.
In the same affidavit, they also questioned the validity of the mission order by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which was used as basis for the issuance of a search warrant.
Under Rule 5 of the Immigration Memorandum Circular No. SM 20150-10, the mission order should contain the following: the true name, aliases, the best description possible, peculiarities, place of residence to clearly indicate the aliens to be arrested, immigration status, purpose of the mission order, period of validity, among others.
However, the mission order used in raiding Fontana Resort and Casino does not contain any particular name or description that can be subject of verification and investigation.
“It merely states the subject thereof as “foreign nationals violating Philippine Immigration laws…This is an overly broad description that, to the point of absurdity, cover all illegal aliens anywhere in the country,” the affidavit stated.
The mission order specifically authorized the operatives to effect a warrantless arrest of aliens violating Philippine Immigration Laws.
“We are being charged before the Department with violation of anti-gambling laws, not immigration laws. This is, therefore, a criminal proceeding and not a mere administrative one. With more reason, then the Constitutional guarantees must be afforded to us,” the counter-affidavit stated.
Due to the broad scope of the mission order, the lawyers said “it makes the person against whom the warrant is issued vulnerable to abuses.”
During the raid, the respondents were not working. Some were sleeping, chatting outside the villa or just in the villa to visit their friends.
“The raiding team forced some of us to sit in front of the computers when they took pictures to be used as evidence,” the affidavit stated.
The raid was conducted on Nov. 24, 2016 but the lawyers said the search warrant came in late and issued merely “to legalize the confiscation of the equipment from Villa 736” which they said was a violation of their constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Chinese nationals arrived in the country with promised jobs to work call center style chatting with Chinese clients.
They said they were not aware that the nature of their work would be online gambling or their employer Next Games Outsource, Inc. (NGOI) has been given a permit to operate.
They said even the general manager of Fontana Resort did not know that NGOI has no permit to operate.
“Yet, the operatives expected us to know the relevant laws of the Philippines in relation to online gambling,” they said in their affidavit.
The affidavit also cited a Supreme Court ruling where it absolved an alien of the crime of illegal recruitment after finding that the accused merely performed his assigned duties and was not expected to know the legal requirements for the operation of his office.
“Therefore, we, too must be absolved of any criminal liability,” the Chinese nationals said in their affidavit.
There are 43 respondents in the case. However, four of the 43 respondents failed to appear and the DOJ panel of prosecutors required the Immigration’s Legal Department to explain their absence.
Then, the case will be submitted for resolution.
Over 1,000 Chinese nationals were arrested during the November 2016 raid. Some were allowed to post bail. The 43 respondents were occupants of one of the villas raided by the government authorities. RAM/rga
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