MANILA, February 16, 2006
 (STAR) SPYIBIZ By S.A. Maguire - Hundreds of Filipino women are being lured into the cybersex trade, offering services from chats to live sexual shows over the Internet to clients mostly based in Japan and the US.

According to Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago, these "cybermodels" are posted in seven web sites and are maintained by local promoters or "videochat hosts." Santiago identified www.imlive.com, www.clickmelive.com, www.steamray.com, www.streamate.com, www.mycamfriends.com, www.privateams.com and www.cams.com as among those offering cyber porn services. The cybermodels are reportedly lodged in groups of five in posh condo units located mostly in Metro Manila and Central Luzon, given free board and other necessities, and supplied with dedicated computers and web cams in their rooms. Website managers based abroad collect a per-minute charge of $1.99 to $2.99 for plain chat sessions with registered members or users. The per-minute rate goes higher when the "models" are asked to strip or perform other acts, the solon said.

A cybermodel can perform for a group of simultaneous viewers all over the world, but if a "customer" decides to take the performer for a private show at a higher rate, other users logged on to the site can be blocked off. Each model reportedly generates as much as $2,000 per month for the US or Japan-based web managers, who keep 60 to 70 percent of revenues. Filipino chat hosts, or the virtual pimps, get 30 to 40 percent. Based on the registry of a popular website peddling sexual activities over the Internet, as many as 200,000 Filipinos may have already been lured into the cybersex trade, the solon said.

Uncivil servants

A reader is appealing for help on behalf of her relatives who are retired public school teachers from Mindoro. Her aunt and mother went to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) office in Batangas to get their eCard so they can continue receiving their P4,500 monthly pension, which was stopped in December because they did not have the eCard. The pensioners who were in their late seventies had to bring traveling companions, and the trip cost them almost P2,000. But instead of showing some respect, the GSIS employees were reportedly very arrogant and treated the pensioners like beggars. The cards were not yet ready, so the retirees were told to come back after two weeks. When one of the old ladies inquired if they would get the cards for sure by then, she was rudely told "no."

A few years ago, the same lady was also surprised to know that she had an existing Policy Loan, when in fact she had not applied for one. She was promised that an investigation would be conducted, but nothing has come out of it. The reader is concerned that some unscrupulous personnel may be taking advantage of these old teachers by making spurious loans. If true, then this is definitely not the proper way to treat these former teachers who are now in the twilight of their years.

Goods no good at all

A Spybiz informant disclosed that a grocery in a mall in this city in Southern Philippines had posted a sign saying: "Picture taking inside the grocery is prohibited." The reason has nothing to do with security or to prevent competitors or copycats from imitating display layout. As it turns out, the owners are allegedly afraid that someone might snap a photo of products — particularly a certain brand of soy sauce — that did not pass through the BFAD, or has already expired. The mall manager is said to be the producer of the soy sauce, and so the grocery owners must be afraid that customers would not be able to shop if they pulled out the uncertified product. Grocery stores that sell goods that are no good must be sanctioned.

Spy tidbiz: How to survive a lay-off

With global news of companies downsizing because of the economic crunch, it would pay to know these tips on how to cope with a potential work loss. First read the writing on the wall, and the signs include expense cut downs, freezes on hiring, travel cutbacks, resignation from key management, and reports of job cuts from competing companies. So update your resume, and if you have health insurance coverage courtesy of your employer, make use of that HMO service while you’re still on the payroll. Next collect all reimbursements due you. That extra amount will help to tide you over for those days when you are on the hunt for another job. Third copy those contacts. Those names and numbers might be necessary on your next job. At the same time, it would be easier for you to establish your own network just in case. This doesn’t mean though that you are free to steal company property such as documents containing customer listings, financial information, strategic plans and contract details. If you do, then better prepare for a possible lawsuit. And most of all never burn your bridges. If you’ve been given the pink slip, then exit with dignity and grace. And if possible, get a recommendation or a positive work evaluation, even if you’re parting not in the best of terms. Remember that your resume would still have to include your stint with the company, and that potential employers would call asking about job performance. If your termination was a result of downsizing and not because of any fault of your own, it would be good if you have a letter to that effect.

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