A dozen Filipinos have been rescued from an alleged Chinese mafia-run cryptocurrency scam in Myanmar, Philippines Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a government plenary session on Monday. 

Hontiveros said the 12 Filipinos, rescued by a network of nongovernmental groups, were forced by a reported Chinese organized crime gang to contact people online and get them to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency sites.

The Filipinos were said to be human trafficking victims who were recruited for call center and offshore gaming operator jobs in Thailand. They were then lured to Myanmar and forced by the Chinese mobsters to work in the scamming network, the Senator said. 

“These Chinese mafias are making the Philippines an incubator of scammers,” said Hontiveros. 

Such scams, commonly known as “pig-butchering,” force thousands of human-trafficked victims to work in their scam centers under threat of violence, according to a report by the France-based blockchain security network Nefture. 

Nefture said once a victim is trafficked, they are taught how to scam people around the world by establishing relationships through social media apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and the dating platform Tinder.

Hontiveros, who chairs the Philippine Senate’s women, children, family relations, and gender equality committee, said Philippine citizens are being targeted in the trafficking due to high levels of English proficiency, which allows them to scam a wider variety of targets.

Failure to complete the fraud would be punished with lack of food, sale to another company, and threats to their lives, according to the Senator.  

“The welfare of our people and our national identity are at stake. Filipinos are not and will never be known as a nation of scammers.”