Victim bares trafficking of Filipinas ‘aided by corrupt’ BI officers | Inquirer News
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Outbound ‘pastillas’ scheme or human trafficking?

Victim bares trafficking of Filipinas ‘aided by corrupt’ BI officers

/ 01:20 PM March 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Speaking in hushed tones and hiding under her blanket inside her employer’s home in Syria, a trafficking victim from the Philippines bared that corrupt immigration officers are allegedly paid P50,000 by recruiters for each Filipino worker trafficked out of the country.

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The victim, who claimed to have been bought by her Syrian employer for a measly $1,000, said the immigration personnel seek renumeration from recruiters to ensure a smooth transit of trafficked Filipinos to their place of destination.

Her fear was further compounded by the fact that her Syrian employer is a powerful individual, being supposedly related to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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“Naririnig ko … ‘Magbayad muna si Ana (recruiter) sa immigration bago palusutin ang mga tao ninyo.’ … [Ang bayad] bawat isa ay P50,000. Iba pa sasalubong sa gate, iba pa yung line number 1 … babae yung nasa counter 1. Iba sumalubong sakin pagkatapos ko sa gate, counter 1, and then hanggang makarating ng eroplano, meron din,” a trafficked Filipina worker, who was only identified as “Alice,” narrated in a video taken by the staff of Senator Risa Hontiveros.

(From what I heard…’Ana should first pay at the immigration before your recruits can pass through the counter…[The payment] for each worker is P50,000. A different immigration officer will meet us at the gate, a different one at the counter 1, up until we reach the airplane.)

OFWs, pastillas scheme, Bureau of Immigration

An OFW in Syria reveals the “pastillas” scheme at BI that allows illegally recruited individuals to pass through immigration counters without hitch. Image from the Office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Alice claimed recruitment agents meet with BI officers at a mall in Manila or at the Luneta Park to make the payments.

Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate women committee, said her office was able to talk to Alice and two other victims, who disclosed similar experiences.

The interview of Alice with Hontiveros’ staff was shared with reporters in an online interview on Tuesday.

“We have collected three personal accounts of how Filipina women became victims of human trafficking, abuse, and exploitation— aided by corrupt immigration counters in our borders. All three are Filipino women trafficked in Syria—they never consented to being brought to the war-torn country,” Hontiveros said.

Sold to employer

According to Alice, she was promised a job in Dubai but she eventually found out that she was being deployed to Syria.

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When she reached Syria, she said an agent from her recruitment agency met up with her and other workers, took them to their office and “locked” them up.

“Pinagkukuha mga cellphone namin [They took our cellphones],” she said.

Twelve days after, Alice said she was “bought” by her employer for $1,000.

She shared that her Syrian employer would hurt her. She would be held down by body guards of her employer.

“Nakaranas ako ng pananakit kasi nagpaalam ako na uuwi ako kaya nagalit sila …Hinahawak, tinatadyakan, sampal, sabunot, kaladlad,” she said.’

(I experienced physical abuse when I asked them if I can go home, they got angry at me…They touched me, kicked me, slapped me, grabbed my hair, dragged me across the floor.)

“Amo ko kasi kamaganak ng presidente ng Syria kaya may mga bodyguard,” she added.

(My employer is a relative of the president in Syria that’s why there are bodyguards.)

Further, Alice said that she was paid half the salary she was promised.

‘Modern day slavery’

Due to these revelations, Hontiveros said that she will officially request the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to furnish the names of the immigration officers who stamped alias Alice’s passport, noting that this would constitute a violation of the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act.

“Malaki laki ang penalty dito at (The penalty is big and) non bailable. This is a case of large-scale trafficking, and trafficking in syndicate. Life imprisonment ang parusa dito,” the senator added.

“Itong napakasaklap na naranasan nila Alice ay modern day slavery… Kinakausap niya yung staff ko sa ilalim ng kanyang kumot, sa kanyang kama sa kanyang kwarto, halos bumubulong lang para lang hindi marinig ng kanyang employer,” she said.

(The experience of Alice is modern day slavery. My staff talked to her while she was hiding under her blanket, on her bed, in her room, she is speaking in a hushed tone so that her employer won’t hear.)

Hontiveros said her committee, which investigated the “pastillas” scheme within BI involving the entry of Chinese nationals in the country, will be conducting a hearing to look into the outbound trafficking of Filipino workers.

‘Harsh penalties’

In reaction to the allegations, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the bureau “will continue to implement the harshest penalties against anyone who violates their oath.”

We will be fully cooperating with the investigation of Senator Hontiveros as we share a common goal of eliminating corruption in the Bureau,” Morente said in a statement.

EDV, JE
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TAGS: BI, Nation, News, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Syria, trafficked
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