MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to go after illegal recruiters.
"I would like to order now, nandito na lang rin tayo, this would be as good as any other time to task the CIS, that's the Criminal --- CIDG, Criminal Investigation of the police and the NBI to make the rounds to make sure that they are not illegally operated," he said.
He added, "...and if you want to help, go direct to the NBI or CIDG of the police. And they are the investigative --- it is the investigative body of the police force."
The President made the directive during the simultaneous celebration of the anniversary of a public service TV show program and the launch of the Anti-Trafficking OFW Movement (ATOM) in Pasay City on Wednesday night.
"Human trafficking is a serious problem that transcends borders," he said. "Therefore we all have a responsibility in making sure that this battle is won."
Duterte said that aside from going after "riding-in-tandem" killers, car thieves, and kidnappers, the PNP should make illegal recruitment a priority.
He also claimed that he once gave a shoot-to-kill order against illegal recruiters when he was still mayor of Davao City.
"I cannot imagine human beings, for that matter, and I'm talking about our countrymen now --- being sold to the slave markets elsewhere and they are tied to the bondage of slavery for all of their lives --- no longer connected with their families, totally lost, and they are there as slaves," he said.
He said he had the opportunity to secure the release of three Davaoeñas who were detained in Saudi Arabia on charges of passing on rosaries to other Filipinas.
"[O]ur gratitude to King Fahd at that time, although he was sick, he gave us the time to be… to hear us out," he said.
It is not clear from the President's speech how the plight of the three Davaoeñas became a case of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.
But he issued a warning for Filipinos working abroad:
"Eh alam mo, you know, there are laws to be followed and I would also caution everybody since everybody is listening, mukhang live ito throughout the Philippines, na those things that are not really allowed in other countries, do not do it because you have to follow the rules."
He cited drug cases as an example.
"'Sumunod kayo' because pag nasabit kayo ng mga ganun, hindi talaga ako makatulong. If at all, it would take time," he warned.
He explained that he has refused making any statements in cases where Filipinos are caught abroad on drug charges. Without mentioning the name of Mary Jane Veloso, he referred to the case in Indonesia.
"True or not, I simply would find it almost incongruous to me to be talking about these things because I really do not… I am the unforgiving especially against drugs and slavery," he said.
In his speech, President Duterte praised China and (South) Korea for having relaxed immigration rules when it comes to visa applications.
"China has been accepting Filipinos like Korea. And they are really --- they are really Asians. They treat us kindly and they are so exceedingly forgiving," he said in front of Chinese Ambassador the the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, who attended the event.
"And mind you, they also gave us the arms that we needed very, very badly," he added.