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Raul Dancel
Thursday, Jul 24, 2014

Asia

I was just offering advice to friends: S'pore woman arrested in Philippines

The Straits Times | Raul Dancel | Thursday, Jul 24, 2014

Singaporean Yvonne Phua has been arrested and charged in the Philippines over a suspected illegal recruitment racket.

A SINGAPOREAN arrested in a raid on a suspected illegal recruitment racket in the Philippines claimed innocence yesterday, saying she was just offering advice to help her Filipino friends' maid-hiring business.

"They said I have a partnership here, but I don't. I'm just a worker.

I work in Singapore. I just get my pay to do my job. Other things, I don't care," Yvonne Phua, 55, a resident of Woodlands in Singapore, said in an interview.

However, Senior Superintendent John Gano Guyguyon, head of the Anti-Transnational Crimes Unit, said Phua's "friends" were operating a "cyber-showroom" that beamed live video feeds of women performing household chores inside two floors of a building in Las Pinas city, south of Manila, for prospective employers in Singapore and Malaysia.

Phua was arrested with a Filipino couple, Michael Abellar and Joy Abellar, who were allegedly recruiting maids for jobs abroad without a licence.

All three have been charged with illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

The Abellars told police they were the authorised representatives of PEM Maid Employment Agency, a Singapore firm.

"PEM is a registered agency in Singapore, but in the Philippines it is not," said Senior Supt Guyguyon.

Phua confirmed that she had been a "trainer" at PEM since 2005, but stressed that she came to the Philippines "to visit my friends".

"I like to tour and make friends. Of course, when they ask me anything about Singapore, I have to share with them.

They want to learn Chinese, I teach them Chinese.

This is sharing. I'm not working for them," she said.

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