BI probes personnel linked to trafficking racket
MANILA, Philippines — Commissioner Norman Tansingco of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has ordered the agency to look into a Chinese human trafficking syndicate allegedly working in cahoots with BI officers to lure Filipinos with job offers abroad, only to entrap them in a web of organized crime in Cambodia.
Tansingco said at least four immigration officers were under investigation for suspected involvement in the human trafficking operation that was uncovered last week by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
The BI chief said one of the four officers assigned at Clark International Airport in Pampanga had been relieved of his post after he was found to have cleared six Filipinos to leave for Cambodia as tourists on Jan. 15.
According to Hontiveros, some BI agents were collectively paid as much as P100,000 by the syndicate for every trafficked Filipino.
“This immigration officer was relieved pending the result of the investigation,” said Tansingco.
The six travelers were about to board a flight to Phnom Penh when they were stopped by the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) because they were found to have fake tickets for their return flight.
“Eventually, they admitted that they… were recruited through Facebook,” said TCEU acting chief Ann Camille Mina.
Tansingco said the passengers also gave inconsistent answers upon questioning and could not explain how they met each other after claiming to be traveling as a group.
Supposed job offer
“We want to also help locate and arrest those illegal recruiters that entice employees to… their illegal scheme as well as exploit the vulnerability of our [countrymen] that they recruit. They are the root of this societal problem and they must also be arrested for this crime,” the commissioner added.
On Wednesday, Hontiveros shared a video of a young woman identified as “Miles” (not her real name), who said she was offered a call center job in Thailand in October last year but ended up being sent to Cambodia to work in a cryptocurrency racket in Kep province.
In the video, Miles recalled being made to work “16 hours straight” with little food and sleep.
She said she witnessed how some of the workers suffered physical abuse, and that she “saw and heard” one of them being electrocuted.
Two weeks ago, Cambodian authorities busted the illegal operation, allowing Miles to fly home on Monday.
Hontiveros said Miles had sought the assistance of the senator’s office because she wanted to help other Filipinos still trapped in Cambodia.
Another Senate hearing on human trafficking activities allegedly abetted by BI personnel and other local authorities is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.