MANILA -- Migrant workers “Miles,” “Ron,” and “Brando,” applied as call center agents in Cambodia with a promised salary of $800 per month.
Miles and Ron went to Cambodia through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while Brando left the country from Mindanao.
"Pinakilala ako ng aking kababata sa isang Malaysian na nagpakilalang Meilin na nasa Cambodia, na kinausap ko via Telegram. In-interview ako ni Meilin via Telegram video call… Pina-process na sa akin ni Meilin ang POEA and OWWA na mga pre-departure documents. Pinadalhan ako ni Meilin ng pera para ayusin yung mga papeles na ito,” Ron told the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality on Wednesday.
“Domestic flight po to Zamboanga po. After po ng Zamboanga, nag-ferry po kami papuntang Jolo, 10 hours po. After po noon, sumakay kami ng another bangka to Tawi-Tawi, 10 oras din… Kinabukasan po, bumiyahe po kami ng Tawi-Tawi to Sabah, seven hours,” Brando said.
He continued: "Pinaglakad po kami ng anim na oras sa bundok… to Kota Kinabalu… Seven hours naman papuntang fish port ng Malaysia. Then, speedboat, dalawang oras papuntang border ng Malaysia. Then airport ng Brunei. Plane from Brunei to Thailand. January 12, nakarating na kami Thailand to Cambodia.”
Miles identified their supposed main recruiter who is also a Filipina.
“Si Rachel Almendra Luna ay may agent sa Pilipinas na nagbo-book ng ticket para sa mga recruits. Mabilis lamang ang proseso ng pagpapadala ng mga recruit sa Cambodia dahil may connection sa Bureau of Immigration, sa Clark International Airport. Kasabwat ng agent niya ang kaniyang asawa… (Sa airport), kapag daw nakatayo ang Immigration officer, puwede lumapit (ang aalis na recruit). Pag nakaupo, wag daw lalapit,” Miles narrated.
They were already in Cambodia when they learned that they will work as scammers.
Miles and Ron said they saw how some employees were punished through electrocution.
“Ayoko sana pirmahan ang kontrata. Pero… babayaran ko daw lahat ng expenses sa akin na total na $1,700 at babayaran ko din ang pamasahe pauwi. Dahil wala akong pambayad, napilitan akong pumirma,” Ron said.
“Kailangan namin mag-post ng iba’t ibang openings sa POGO Jobs Facebook groups. Kapag hindi namin sinunod, may penalty. US$100-300 ang penalty kapag hindi ka nakapag-recruit ng tao. Kapag hindi ka nag-post, US$20-50. Kaya dapat may screenshots ka showing na nag-post ka. Target recruit is 3 to 5 Filipinos per month,” Miles said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Ron about the job offers that can be found on Facebook.
“Lahat ng nakalagay na job offer sa Facebook na customer support o call center sa Cambodia, scam ba yun lahat?” she said.
“Yes po Ma’am, 100 percent po. Papalabasin ka na call center, chat support. Pagdating doon, gagawin kang scammer,” Ron replied.
During the hearing, Hontiveros questioned the Immigration stamp on Brando’s passport upon his arrival in Malaysia.
Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco was quick to declare it as fake.
The National Bureau of Investigation reported to the panel that they have already located the alleged recruiter’s whereabouts.
“Na-locate na po natin ang general location nitong illegal recruiter na ito. And we are also coordinating sa ating foreign counterparts dahil nasa ibang bansa po. Pero yung local location po niya, alam na natin. And once na ma-pinpoint, eventually po ay ma-arrest at makulong na po itong illegal recruiter po,” Christopher Paz, chief of the NBI Cybercrime Division, said.
The Bureau of Immigration meanwhile identified the Immigration officer who escorted at least three recruits who left for Cambodia through the Clark International Airport.
“Yesterday, we submitted a reply. To confirm, we have identified the Immigration officer as Alma Grace David. As early as January 19, 2023, we already relieved her as Immigration officer and reassigned her to the admin office in the main office pending the result of the investigation by the Department of Justice,” Tansingco said.
Hontiveros said Facebook Philippines snubbed the committee’s invitation.
The country’s problem with human trafficking has worsened because recruiters now use the social media to lure victims, said Migrant Workers Undersecretary Bernard Olalia.
“Tinitingnan po natin ang mga online post sa FB, sa Instagram, sa TikTok. Marami po kasi d'yan, Madam. Kami po ay may surveillance team tulad ng nabanggit ko kanina,” he said at the hearing.
Since September 2022, the DMW has rescued the following number of human trafficking victims, according to the agency;
- Thailand -- 1,843
- Camboda -- 204
- Vietnam -- 337
- Laos -- 17
- Myanmar -- 2
- Singapore -- 845
“Kaya kami po ay nakikipag-ugnayan sa Meta Philippines para sa FB at nagre-request po kami ng takedowns. At marami na po kaming napa-takedown na post… Yun pong ating MOUs sa LGUs natin, kasi kailangan din pong malaman ng mga PESO managers para mai-disseminate sa mga grassroots, sa OFW sector,” Olalia said.
The personalities identified in the hearing will be summoned in the next proceeding, Hontiveros said.
The senator has also called for the “total overhauling” of the BI amid the alleged human smuggling issue.