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Phl may lose $250-million aid over human trafficking

MANILA, Philippines - Two Mindanao lawmakers warned their colleagues yesterday that the country would lose up to $250 million in aid from the United States unless it makes a serious effort to curb human trafficking.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Maximo, who represents the party-list group Abante Mindanao, made the warning in Resolution 560, in which they asked the House to look into cases of human trafficking.

The two said the US “has an anti-human trafficking law that directs the State Department to monitor efforts of every country against trafficking, and from 2009 until now, we have been on the Tier 2 watch list.”

“Under that same law, if a country has been on the Tier 2 watch list for two consecutive years, they are automatically downgraded to Tier 3 in the third year unless there are significant efforts to curb human smuggling,” they said.

They said the US can defer or withhold assistance to any country in the Tier 3 list.

They pointed out that “there are many cases of overseas Filipino workers all over the globe who are victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”

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“The US government is concerned that the Philippines has a high number of human trafficking cases, and yet, they have not heard of a case or cases filed and won against those who had abused the victims,” the Rodriguez brothers said.

They said among the funds that the US could withhold are “those meant for Mindanao.”

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said human smuggling syndicates continue to victimize Filipino workers even after America had expressed its concern over human trafficking.

Just a few days ago, immigration officers stopped three Filipina tourists from boarding their plane for Singapore when they discovered that their real destination was Lebanon, where the deployment of workers is banned, he said.

He added that when brought to the airport immigration office, the alleged tourists admitted that a recruiter deployed them to work in Lebanon.

Rodriguez said shortly after President Aquino appointed Leila de Lima as his justice secretary, she ordered the relief and investigation of several immigration officers at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City for their alleged involvement in human smuggling.

He said a female officer, who was herself being linked to trafficking, spilled the beans on her colleagues.

He urged De Lima to now reveal the results of the investigation of the immigration personnel posted in Clark.

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