Memories of wrongful raid haunt call center workers
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—Christine Bautista, 26, an online English teacher, broke into tears when police raided her call center office on suspicion that it was operating as a cybersex den in March.
Seven months later, Bautista is back at work at Kame Hachi Corp.’s online tutorial office, after the case against the firm was dropped in July for insufficiency of evidence.
“I have not forgotten that night yet. But I wish I’ll forget it soon,” Bautista told reporters at the formal reopening of the tutorial facilities last week.
Bautista was one of 150 employees who were distraught when a team deployed by the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) raided their office and filed charges against three Japanese and four Filipino owners.
“They had no evidence,” said lawyer Nolan Evangelista, who handled the case for the call center.
Evangelista said company officials had been consulting him about suing the police for damages and lost income opportunities. The CIDG has yet to return nine computer units and a laptop, which were seized during the raid.
CIDG agents barged into the office past 7 p.m. on March 17, while Bautista was in a session with a young Japanese boy.
Loud male voices
Bautista said she heard the office door swing open, followed by loud male voices. “I could not just stand up from my work station to check what was happening because I was having a class. So I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God! Did somebody just come in to hold us hostage?’” she narrated.
She said she found relief when a policeman suddenly appeared.
“I was telling myself, ‘He is a policeman so he will not hurt us.’ But suddenly, the policeman yelled, ‘Go to the dining area!’
“We were in the dining area for maybe four hours. The agents asked for our identification cards and birth certificates. One of them was talking on the phone and he was saying, ‘Positive, positive.’
“Then one of the policemen asked me, ‘Why are you all beautiful?’ So I answered, ‘Sorry, but my family has beautiful genes.’
“We felt so degraded at that time. We did not know what was happening and we were not doing anything wrong.”
Bautista said that when they were finally allowed to go home that night, she thought their ordeal was over.
“But I was wrong. The days that followed turned out to be our worst nightmare. We did not have jobs, we had no salaries, and people were thinking bad things about us,” she said after news reports portrayed them as cybersex workers.
“They even showed a supposed sex toy, which was actually an electric massager. I have two kids and I cannot imagine how that gadget can be a sex toy,” she said.
She said only half of the office’s original staff returned when the tutorial services reopened. Some found new jobs while others refused to return.
“We also lost many clients. But with this fresh start, we hope the company will bounce back,” Bautista said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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