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Immigration and airport personnel implicated in Myanmar trafficking
Published on: Thursday, December 01, 2022
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Immigration and airport personnel implicated in Myanmar trafficking
Tourists are seen after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Paranaque City, the Philippines, Feb. 11, 2022. - Xinhua
MANILA: Airport and Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel allegedly facilitated the outbound trafficking of Filipinos to Myanmar, where they are being used to dupe clients using cryptocurrency, a Senate hearing revealed on Tuesday.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality which conducted the hearing along with the Migrant Workers committee, said human trafficking is being carried out by individuals who have alleged connections with BI and airport employees.

BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said they will coordinate with Hontiveros to seek further information.

“We are also interested to find out how these victims were able to depart despite stringent immigration assessment,” he said in a statement.

Hontiveros presented an alias Paulo, who was illegally recruited to work for a telemarketing company in the western Thailand city of Mae Sot.

He later learned that he will be doing a crypto-scamming job in nearby Myanmar.

Paulo said his recruiter, whom he identified as Laisa Magallanes, told him an “escort” would help expedite his departure from the Philippines but PHP30,000 would be deducted from his salary for this service.

The senator said that even if Paulo did not pass through the immigration counter, his passport was marked with the official BI exit stamp while “somebody” exempted him from falling in line using an employee’s identification card from WHsmith, allegedly a store inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

“Is this a Pastillas 2 but worse and more daring? Are airport security or personnel involved? Is the illegal recruiter being paid by BI or airport personnel? It’s sad that Filipinos are being victimised by their countrymen to serve their own interest,” Hontiveros said.

“Pastillas” was a previous human trafficking scheme by BI employees who facilitated the entry of illegal Chinese nationals to the Philippines, with the accomplices receiving grease money wrapped in Japanese paper, like how the Filipino delicacy made of milk and sugar is prepared.

Last week, Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech about alias Rita and 11 other Filipinos who were promised jobs in Thailand but were trafficked into Myanmar by a Chinese syndicate based in Shwe Kokko, a town in the Kayin State of Myanmar.

In October, Tansingco issued an advisory to BI inspectors to conduct strict assessment of travellers departing for neighbouring countries after receiving reports that Filipinos were being illegally recruited and transported to a third country to work as call centre agents for a company that operates online scams.

“These human traffickers try to circumvent immigration assessment by adjusting their modus operandi,” he said. “Oftentimes, syndicates provide fake employment documents and statements to their victims.”

In 2021, the BI deferred the departure of 13,860 passengers for improper documentation and foiled 688 attempts of human trafficking and illegal recruitment at international ports.

Tansingco said they are also closely coordinating with the Department of Migrant Workers and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to update policies on trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Tansingco previously inspected BI operations at NAIA and warned personnel that he will not tolerate any act of corruption.

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