MANILA (UPDATE) - A senator on Tuesday bared a scheme where immigration officers allegedly take bribes from illegal recruiters to traffic Filipina domestic workers as slaves to Syria.
In one case, an Immigration official allegedly met with an illegal recruiter at the Luneta Park in Manila to collect some P50,000 for every trafficked Filipina, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in an online press conference.
Hontiveros presented a recorded message from a certain "Alice," one of 3 Filipinas in Syria who sought help from her office after experiencing abuse from their employers.
"Nakaranas ako ng pananakit kasi nagpaalam ako na uuwi ako kaya nagalit sila, sinaktan ako," Alice said, noting that they were asked to work 17 hours a day.
(I experienced physical abuse because I told them I wanted to go home. They were angered by that so they laid their hands on me.)
"Tinatadyakan 'yung tagiliran ko, sampal, sabunot. Hampas ng kahoy, 'yan ang naranasan ko dito," she said.
(They kick me, slap me, and they also pull my hair. I also experienced being hit with wood.)
Alice said she has been receiving only half of the promised $400 (P20,000) monthly salary since she started working in Damascus in 2018.
Based on initial information, an Immigration official meets with trafficked persons at the entrance of airports and ushers them towards Immigration "counter number 1," said Hontiveros, whose Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality has been investigating bribery scandals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Another Immigration staff assists them until they board the plane, the senator said.
Alice and her 2 other colleagues were told that they would board a flight to Malaysia before taking another flight to Dubai, Hontiveros said.
"Two weeks muna sila sa Malaysia kung saan nalaman ni Alice na hindi sila pa-Dubai kung 'di pa-Damascus, Syria," she said.
(They stayed in Malaysia for 2 weeks where Alice learned that they were bound for Damascus, Syria and not Dubai.)
Alice said they later found out that they were sold for $1,000 (P50,000) each to their Syrian employers.
"Ito talaga ay large-scale trafficking," Hontiveros said.
(This is large-scale trafficking.)
"Hindi ito employment. Ito ay slavery," she said.
(This is not employment. This is slavery.)
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said he would forward the issue to the Philippine Ambassador to Syria, according to the senator.
"Sinabi po ni Sec. Locsin na kaniyang ibibilin kaagad ito sa ating ambassador doon at nagsisimula na rin po kaming makipag-ugnayan sa ating executive at law enforcement agencies," she told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo Tuesday.
(Sec. Locsin said he would forward this to our ambassador in Syria and we have also began coordinating with our executive and law enforcement agencies.)
The Committee is also scheduling a new hearing to know more about the human trafficking schemes allegedly backed by several Immigration officials.
"Aalamin natin paano pinaghahatian 'yung P50,000," she said.
(We will find out how they split the P50,000 [bribe].)