MANILA, Philippines - Two days before the change in administration, former Justice Secretary Alberto Agra supposedly dropped human trafficking charges against 15 personnel of the Bureau of Immigration working in the Diosdado Macagapagal International Airport (DMIA).
In a press release, workers’ rights advocate Susan Ople said Agra dismissed the accusations of immigration agent Racel Ong who had claimed the personnel escorted undocumented workers pass through the airport in Clark, Pampanga.
Ople is the head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
The press release quoted the decision as saying: “It is readily obvious that her allegations are all too sweeping and indiscriminate and creates the impression that not a single employee of the BI assigned at the DMIA is carrying out their functions and all they are concerned about is how to be able to collect bribes from passengers at the DMIA on a daily basis.”
Ople called the decision a “midnight decision.”
“It stipulates that the whistleblower has the burden of proving her allegations and that the entire DMIA complex is covered by CCTV cameras which would have made such anomalous activities apparent. I wonder if Atty. Agra is aware that no corrupt personnel would take the time to wave before a camera before committing a crime,” she asked.
She said her group has long been receiving reports that DMIA has become the choice of many illegal recruiters.
“He says that all these reports are too incredible to be true. But what if they are true? How many more women would be provided escort services to ensure their undetected departure as undocumented workers? We are not saying that all those implicated should be presumed guilty as charged. But we do raise the question of logic and propriety,” she added.
The group appealed to newly-appointed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to reverse her predecessor’s decision.
The news also comes on the heels of a report from the US State Department placing the country the second time in the tier 2 watch list of human trafficking cases.
It said the Philippines still has a “very significant or is significantly increasing” number of victims. The government has also not done enough in terms of prosecution, the US State Department said.