Risa: P100K paid per trafficked Pinoy at Clark
Miles, not her real name, left the country in October last year supposedly for a career in a call center company in Thailand.
But she ended up being trafficked by a Chinese syndicate operating a cryptocurrency scam in Cambodia which also victimized other nationals, mostly Americans, Canadians and Singaporeans.
Last week, Miles and other victims under forced labor by that syndicate were rescued by Cambodian authorities in Kep province, where they had been toiling in a makeshift office, glued to their computers, as they tried to bait potential clients through WhatsApp and dupe them to shell out money.
The work was almost nonstop, she said.
“They made us work overtime for 16 hours straight. We could not sleep. They gave us food, but we could not eat it,” Miles said in a video recording which the office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros provided to the media on Wednesday.
“At first, we were allowed to have breaks. But in December, they stopped giving us breaks because we could not get new clients,” she added.
Besides the long work hours, they were maltreated and physically assaulted by their bosses, said Miles, who claimed further that she witnessed a worker being electrocuted.
“I saw and heard it,” she said.
After Miles and the others were rescued, they were brought to a police station in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
They spent a night at a building next to the station, sleeping on the floor as there were no beds, before they were able to fly back home last Monday with the help of people whom Hontiveros declined to name. ‘Contacts’ at Clark
She said rescued workers like Miles were just the latest among many victims of trafficking syndicates which targeted Filipinos seeking to leave the country for better-paying jobs abroad.
The senator related their experience to that of a group of Filipinos who also fell victim to a Chinese syndicate behind an internet scam in Myanmar, which she exposed in November last year.
Hontiveros said that according to those victims, some personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) assigned at Clark International Airport in Pampanga arranged the travel of Filipinos recruited by the traffickers.
The recruiters paid as much as P100,000 to those immigration agents for every Filipino traveler they allowed to fly out of Clark “without questions,” Hontiveros said.
Miles affirmed the senator’s allegations in her video, saying that the syndicate which recruited her had “contacts” with BI personnel at Clark.
She said these agents escorted the Filipinos lured into trafficking and briefed them on what to do when they passed through immigration counters.
‘Pushed to danger’
“They (the recruiters) book our tickets and contact the immigration officer,” Miles said.
She said the victims were never interviewed. “They were also not required to present documents. The immigration officer would just stamp the (passports),” she added.
Miles said she came out with her video to help Filipinos still trapped in Cambodia.
Hontiveros lamented that corruption among immigration officers still persists even after the Senate investigation into the “pastillas” scam, through which they allowed undocumented Chinese nationals to enter the country in exchange for huge sums of money rolled up like milk candies.
‘Last line of defense’
The Senate inquiry last year, which she headed, led to the indictment of several BI agents behind that scheme.
“But it seems there are still groups or individuals within the agency who will stop at nothing to make an easy buck,” Hontiveros said.
She emphasized that “it is the duty of airport and immigration officers to be the last line of defense against the trafficking of our citizens.”
“They should prevent Filipinos from falling prey to syndicates in other countries. Instead, they even pushed Filipinos to danger,” she added.
Hontiveros said “whoever conspired with the illegal recruiters and syndicates to victimize Filipinos will be held liable.”She said she will seek an inquiry that “will spare no effort to ensure that accountability will be established and justice served.”