SEN. Ana Theresia Hontiveros on Tuesday accused some Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials of receiving P50,000 per Filipino trafficked out of the country.
The senator shared a personal account of a certain “Alice,” who was trafficked into Syria through the “help” of some unidentified BI officers in the airport.
Hontiveros said the scam was apparently a “mutation” of the pastillas scam that she had exposed involving BI personnel, travel agencies, and Chinese tourists. The bribery was dubbed as “pastillas” because the money would be hidden in rolled bond paper like the wrapper for the milk candy.
“It looks like (some) BI officials were again in cahoots in the illegal trade. Corrupt BI officers would try to get involved in any money-making schemes in the airport. How many mutations of the pastillas scam that we are not yet aware of?” Hontiveros asked.
“Alice,” claimed that she was promised work in Dubai, but found out during a stopover in Malaysia that she was, in fact, going to Syria. She also recounted how her recruiter, named Ana, would pay BI officers, and other trafficked women, at the counter number 1 immigration desk in the airport.
Hontiveros said that her office has two other testimonies of trafficked women that they will reveal in an upcoming Senate hearing. She said the women were indeed trafficked, as they never consented to being brought to Syria. They were held against their will in various ways and some even abused.
“Our immigration officers seem to be sending our women into slavery. I am calling the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to attend to this matter immediately,” said the chairman of the Senate Committee on Women.
“In the middle of a global pandemic, our kababayans (fellowmen) are stuck in a war-torn country. Our government should stop at nothing — I will stop at nothing — to get these women home,” Hontiveros stressed in a statement.
The senator said that she would request the BI to furnish the names of the immigration officers who stamped the passport of “Alice”’ since this would constitute a violation of the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act.