By Ferdinand Patinio
MANILA — Four undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) while attempting to leave for Bangkok in the guise of being tourists, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Thursday.
According to BI port operations division chief Grifton Medina, the women, who were supposed to be recruited to work in Dubai, were intercepted by the Bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) as they are about to board a flight to Bangkok last October 9.
“They pretended that they all knew each other as they were co-workers and friends. But our immigration officers found numerous inconsistencies in their statements,” he said in a statement.
“They all eventually admitted having United Arab Emirates (UAE) visas in their possession and that their final destination is Dubai where they were recruited to work as household service workers,” Medina added.
Aside from the four women, he said that another woman, who allegedly recruited them and was supposed to accompany them on their trip, was also barred from leaving.
Medina added that they were all turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for investigation and filing of appropriate charges.
On the other hand, BI TCEU chief Timotea Barizo said the women initially claimed to be employed at the travel agency owned by their recruiter, who also arranged their trip to Bangkok.
“During the immigration inspection, the recruiter would act as the spokesperson for the entire group. She kept on answering for everyone and has everyone’s documentation. This caused our officers to further doubt their story, hence they verified and eventually discovered the deceit,” she said.
“We are noticing here a pattern where trafficking victims are being made to appear as employees of their recruiters. But such a scheme will not work anymore, luma na yan (that is already old), we knew of this trick a long time ago,” Barizo added.
The names of the passengers were not divulged to a prohibition in the anti-trafficking law.
For his part, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente warned anew those wanting to work abroad to follow existing rules and requirements.
“We are in the midst of an intensified campaign against human trafficking, thus we are warning aspiring OFWs to comply with the rules and requirements for overseas workers,” he said.
“We are likewise warning recruiters and other cohorts not to attempt to assist or vouch for illegal workers, as you will face human trafficking cases which could lead to life imprisonment,” Morente added. (PNA)