Hontiveros urges border control, coordination with states to stop trafficking of Pinoys

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Hontiveros urges border control, coordination with states to stop trafficking of Pinoys
Passengers queue at the various gates of the NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City on October 29, 2022.
STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Amid her expose of a Chinese mafia's trafficking operation targetting Filipinos, Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called on the national government to tighten border control mechanisms and coordinate with other governments to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers. 

In a statement sent to reporters, Hontiveros said that the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality would aim to hold accountable the individuals in the Bureau of Immigration and the Manila International Airport Authority found to be linked to the scam. She also called on other national government agencies to assist any OFWs reaching out to them. 

"Border control should be tightened here in the Philippines to make sure that we do not let our countrymen fall into the hands of syndicates," Hontiveros said. 

The committee's hearings have found that trafficked passengers were given a fake monthly pass stamped with the logo of the Manila International Airport Authority, which manages the terminals of the NAIA. 

At Tuesday's hearing, Hontiveros and two survivors of the human trafficking operation also alleged that personnel of the Bureau of Immigration were involved in the scam and were responsible for the entry of the operation's agents into the country. 

"Filipinos who have been trafficked to other countries to scam must be sent home first. Rapid coordination is needed with various government agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Migrant Workers, and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration, as well as liaison with governments in other countries," she said. 

READ: Hontiveros bares fake job ads, trafficking of Pinoys to Myanmar for crypto scam

The senator's office unearthed the scheme last month after it found that unsuspecting OFWs looking for jobs abroad were promised a job in a call center as customer service representatives, or as data encoders but were kidnapped and then forced to scam foreigners.

Rescued OFWs have also alleged that the Chinese syndicate is holding similar operations in Thailand, the Middle East and Myanmar. 

"Moving forward, there have to be clear transborder solutions. The Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia are bound by the ASEAN convention against trafficking in persons so there must be tighter coordination to suppress this crime," Hontiveros said. 

"It would be good to have cooperation and coordination with the states of the US, Canada, Germany and the UK, especially since their citizens are often the victims of scams."

Amid rising prices locally, the senator also called for programs and policies that can keep Filipinos at home instead of seeking out better opportunities abroad. 

A number of the rescued OFWs say they went along with the scheme even once they were kidnapped because of the lack of opportunities at home.

"There is no immediate solution to the hardships of the lives of our countrymen who are motivated to take chances in other countries. Therefore, the implementation of programs and policies that can really provide a decent life to every Filipino must be accelerated," she said. 

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