Sen. Tulfo says airport execs ‘guilty’ over link to human trafficking

MANILA, Philippines — Airport officials are “guilty” as they skipped a Senate panel deliberation on human trafficking, Senator Raffy Tulfo said on Tuesday.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros, the issue of the human trafficking of Filipinos in Myanmar was discussed.

READ: 31 more Filipinos may be trafficking victims in Myanmar, says Hontiveros

Hontiveros asked the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for issuing the stamp to the victims’ passports, but the agency replied that the stamp was not genuine.

Tulfo then said that he believes the issue is not an immigration matter.

“I don’t think this is an immigration matter. I think dapat mapatawag natin ‘yung mga taga-MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) kasi may ginamit na pass. May nag-issue ng passes. Du’n dapat tayo mag-umpisa, not the immigration, I think,” the neophyte senator said.

(I think we should call those from MIAA because there was a pass. Someone issued passes to erring individuals. So we should start there, not the immigration, I think.)

“Imbestigahan natin sino nag-issue ng passes na ‘yun. I’m sure may kasabwat ‘yun na sindikato sa loob,” he went on.

(Let us investigate who issued passes. I’m sure they are working with a syndicate inside.)

Hontiveros said that the panel invited Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal Manager Lauro Francisco to attend the hearing. He, however, skipped the debate due to COVID-19 infection.

Tulfo stressed: “Guilty, as simple as that. Put it on record na sinabihan ko silang (that I called them) guilty.”

“For Hontiveros, the developments seem like a part 2 of the Pastillas scam.”

“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 asked.

(This seems like Pastillas Part 2, but worst and more concerning. Do airport security or personnel also have a hand in this? Are BI or airport officials working with illegal recruiters? It is hurting that many Filipinos are in danger overseas because of our fellow countrymen who are taking advantage for their own interests.)

The Pastillas scam, named after the popular Filipino delicacy due to the money being wrapped and rolled up in a paper looking like the milk candy, involved Chinese nationals who were permitted to enter the Philippines without undergoing immigration procedures.

Victims of human trafficking

Also, during the hearing, human trafficking victims, whose real names were not disclosed, recounted their harsh experiences.

“Baby” from Navotas City shared that she was offered by her friend to work as a call center agent in Thailand with a salary of P50,000.

Her friend was also recruited by an agent they had worked with in Malaysia.

The recruiter handled all their requirements, such as COVID-19 antigen tests and flight booking.

She narrated how they could reach Myanmar by riding several modes of transportation.

Eventually, Baby learned that her work was a scammer, not a call center agent. However, she said that she was treated well at first.

She then experienced abuse when she did something wrong. These include standing for 15 hours, doing duck walks for three hours, and carrying a brick stone for four hours.

Baby begged her recruiter to allow her to return to the Philippines. But, instead, her fellow Filipinos there chipped in for the expenses for Baby to go home.

Meanwhile, “Paulo” said he saw a job post from a certain Laisa Magallanes on Facebook.

He was told that the job was a customer service representative. He met with Magallanes in a coffee shop in Pasay City to submit the requirements.

He and another applicant learned they would land in Bangkok and travel for nine to 12 hours to Mae Sot, Thailand.

On the day of his flight, “Paulo” backed out as he had a gut feeling not to push through after his passport was stamped by the BI without passing through the immigration counter. He was also given a fake identification card of WHSmith, a store at Naia Terminal 3, to pretend to be an employee.

Earlier, Hontiveros exposed that Filipinos were trafficked to Myanmar to be scammers. She added that a Chinese mafia is planning to form an all-Filipino team of scammers because of their English proficiency.

READ: Hontiveros: Chinese mafia plans all-Filipino scammer team in Myanmar