MANILA – Senator Risa Hontiveros wants a total revamp of Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials, saying there is a possibility that they are working with Chinese mafia in human trafficking of Filipinos who were forced to work on cryptocurrency scam.
Hontiveros said based on the testimonies of rescued victims, there are BI employees at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga that escort and allow the victims leave the country without questioning them.
“Marami nang napabalitang nasibak pero tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang pagre-recruit ng mga Pilipino para mang-scam. May mga contact ba ang sindikato sa loob ng BI? Bakit hindi ito maampat (It has been reported that many have been fired but the recruitment of Filipinos to scam is still ongoing. Does the syndicate have contacts within BI? Why is it not stopped)," Hontiveros said on Wednesday in a news briefing.
She said the Immigration Modernization bill must also be revisited to enhance the efficacy of the BI through salary grade increases and immigration system updates, among others.
“I had already urged a BI overhaul in the wake of the 'pastillas' scam investigation two years ago, but nothing seems to have changed. With the volume of trafficked Filipinos still in Cambodia and Myanmar, the BI, as our last line of defense against trafficking, clearly has some shaping up to do. The BI has to regroup and repair the entirety of their agency,” Hontiveros said.
During the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality hearing, alias "Ron", one of the Filipinos trafficked to Cambodia, said his Chinese employers coerced him to recruit other Filipinos to work for the crypto scam operations.
Ron said the head of recruitment, a certain Rachel Almendra Luna, has contacts with immigration officers at the Clark airport.
He also said all of their recruitment happens on Facebook groups, posting job ads that call on Filipinos to apply for a customer service agent job in Cambodia and promising a salary of at least USD600 per month.
“Facebook needs to be answerable for these trafficking schemes that are perpetrated on their platform. The company has to be aware of this modus and be on the lookout for these kinds of posts. I-take down o i-block na dapat ang mga accounts o posts na mga ito para hindi na makapag-recruit pa ng Pilipino (These accounts or posts should be taken down or blocked so that no more Filipinos can be recruited)," Hontiveros said.
Ron also said his employer had him go through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration using another company’s name, fake invitation letters and other papers.
Despite the false documents, he was given an Overseas Employment Certificate.
“Hindi ba ang employment contract ay dapat i-verify at i-authenticate? Wala bang kahit anong (Shouldn't the employment contract be verified and authenticated? Is there any) screening to identify possible red flags," Hontiveros asked during the hearing. (PNA)