MANILA — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday revealed in a joint Senate hearing a new modus in facilitating illegal Filipino workers in Myanmar.
She presented 3 Filipinos who were victims of human trafficking.
Among them was "Paulo," not his real name, who was illegally recruited to work in a telemarketing company in Mae Sot, Thailand, which he later learned was actually a “crypto-scamming job” in Myanmar.
Paulo said an “escort” helped him with the immigration process to expedite his departure from the Philippines, which would cost him a P30,000 deduction from his salary.
He did not go through the immigration counter and was asked to pretend to be an employee of the airport.
“Habang nakapila ako sa check-in counter, bigla ako tinawagan ng escort at pinagalitan ako bakit daw ako pumipila sa immigration kasi aalis daw ako bilang empleyado ng airport at hindi bilang OFW o turista,” he narrated.
“Pinababa niya ako sa may arrival area sa Bay 13 at tinagpo ulit ako ng assistant ng escort na nagbigay ng ID at damit na susuutin ko. Kinuha niya ulit ang passport ko. Nakatyempo po ako at pinicture ko ang ID,” he added.
He said he got scared and decided not to continue with his departure.
Hontiveros said this appeared to be similar to the “Pastillas scheme” which she exposed in 2020 that involved immigration officials who facilitated illegal entry of Chinese workers into the Philippines.
“Para itong pastillas part 2, pero mas malala at mas mapusok. May kinalaman din ba ang mga airport security o personnel? Nasa bulsa at kakuntsaba ba ng mga BI o airport officials ang mga illegal recruiter? Ang sakit na napapahamak ang napakaraming Pilipino sa ibang bansa dahil sa kapwa nating Pilipino na nananamantala dahil sa pansariling interes,” she said.
In the Senate hearing, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the BI stamp in Paulo’s passport was fake.
“The stamp is obviously fake, we do not have immigration stamp bearing [number] 393,” Tangsingco said, referring to the supposed employer number that does not exist in the BI.
Sen. Raffy Tulfo, who co-chaired the joint hearing, expressed concern that there might be others who are involved in the human trafficking scheme.
“I know this is an immigration matter, dapat mapasagot natin ang mga (Manila) International Airport Authority kasi may ginamit na pass. May nag-issue ng pass. Kailangan imbestigahan natin iyon dahil I’m sure may sindikato iyon na involved sa loob,” Tulfo said
ABUSED OFWs IN MYANMAR
Also during the hearing, Hontiveros raised the issue of OFWs abused in Myanmar by their Chinese employers.
Baby (not her real name), who spoke in the hearing, said she almost died in the hands of her employer.
“Pinagbubuhat din ako ng mga brick stone ng apat na oras. Kung hindi latigo ay kukuryentihin ka. Pagkababa ng brick stone ay papatakbuhin ka. Kapag mabagal ka tumakbo ay babatuhin ka ng bola ng basketball,” she said.
“Noong nakakulong ako sa black room, apat na pandesal at isang bote ng mineral water lang ang ibinibigay sa aking pagkain. Pagkain na ito para sa buong araw. Bago ibigay sa akin ay kinukuryente ako,” she added.
Hontiveros said it is unacceptable that despite all the Senate hearings into human trafficking, the crime continues.
“Sa hirap ng buhay sa Pilipinas at sa patuloy na pagtaas ng mga bilihin habang walang pag-usad ang sweldo ng mga manggagawa, hindi sila masisisi kung pinili nilang dumaan sa butas ng karayom para lang may maibigay sa kani-kanilang pamilya. This is also a challenge for us in government not only to clean up our immigration system, but also to urgently provide adequate and dignified jobs and livelihood for every Filipino,” Hontiveros said.