MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday vowed to cooperate with the Senate investigation headed by Senator Risa Hontiveros on the alleged involvement of immigration personnel in the trafficking of Filipino women.

“The consistent and unrelenting efforts to eradicate all illegal activities have been a commitment of the administration over the past five years. Admittedly, it’s a tough job, but we remain resolute and undaunted, dedicated to the complete cleansing of a Bureau committed to serving with professionalism and integrity,” said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente in a statement.

The investigation led by Hontiveros and the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality aims to find out the truth behind the alleged trafficking of Filipinas who were supposedly recruited to work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates but ended up in Syria.

He said the BI is part of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and is committed to its duty as the last line of defense in protecting fellow Filipinos from syndicates committing illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

“This investigation is another step towards eradicating human trafficking from our country by finding its root cause, as well as cutting down any growth that may have emerged from this societal weed,” Morente added.

At the same time, he reported that 86 personnel have recently been suspended and are facing charges for allegedly being involved in anomalous activities after the investigation of the Senate committee, the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as internal investigations.

“We have put measures in place to prevent illegal activities occurring amongst our ranks. Apart from internal checks and balances, several government agencies work hand in hand with the BI in protecting our fellow Filipinos from trafficking,” the BI commissioner added.

At present, he said they are implementing the IACAT Revised Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers issued by the Justice department in 2015.

“Because of the efforts of the BI, together with other members of the council, the Philippines has upgraded and consistently retained its Tier 1 ranking for the fifth year in a row, in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, proving the agency’s significant efforts to protect departing Filipinos,” Morente added.

A Tier 1 rating means the Philippines has continually demonstrated serious and sustained efforts to combat the crime. In fact, we are the forerunner in the South East Asian region when it comes to efforts against human trafficking.

On the other hand, Morente also reported that in 2019, more than 38,000 were deferred departure as part of the campaign against human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

More than 400 of them have been turned over to the IACAT for having elements of human trafficking, to be able to assist them in filing charges against their recruiters.

In 2020, the number of Filipinos whose departures were deferred by the BI dropped to 12,000 as a result of travel restrictions and international flight suspensions due to the coronavirus pandemic. (PNA)