The Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the Clark International Airport (CIA) intercepted on Monday another underage overseas Filipino worker (OFW) bound for the Middle East.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente shared that traffickers of underage OFW are still in business, despite the ongoing investigations as pushed by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.
“These criminals are not stopping their illegal business despite being exposed and even during the time of pandemic,” said Morente. “Mga halang ang kaluluwa, they are out to exploit the vulnerabilities of our children for their greed,” he added.
The female victim, whose name was not divulged following anti-trafficking laws, initially claimed that she was 27 years old, and is traveling to work as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia. However, primary inspection officer Rejel Abergas noted inconsistencies in her statement and referred her for secondary inspection to the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU).
TCEU Officers Tomas David and Pedro Reynaldo III reported that the victim presented her valid passport with an employment visa, a postal ID, a Tax Identification Number ID, a visitor’s card, a National Bureau of Investigation Clearance, a Certificate of Muslim Filipino Tribal Affiliation, a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Certificate, her Overseas Employment Certificate, a Pre-Departure Education Program for Domestic Workers Certificate, a birth certificate from the Local Civil Registry, and a Philippine Statistics Authority-issued birth certificate. Majority of said documents, said the BI, were issued in the Southern part of the country.
BI intercepts another underage OFW
Upon interview, the victim made highly inconsistent statements about her age. She claimed to be 27, but stated that her older brother is 23. When further asked, it was confirmed that she is only 21 years old, and a certain “Munalisa” instructed her not to reveal her true age.
The minimum age to work as domestic workers in the Middle East is 23.
The BI also shared that the victim’s birth certificates also had discrepancies, as these showed that she was already 30 years old.
“This is a clear case of human trafficking of an underage OFW, preying on their needs and providing them documents through fraudulent means,” said Morente. “We warn on our kababayan not to fall prey for these illegal schemes,” he added.
It can be recalled that during the Senate hearings on the trafficking of minors, underage OFWs were illegally transported to Syria and other war-torn countries, and many times ended up exploited, abused, and unpaid.
Morente commended the immigration personnel involved in rescuing the victim. He then reminded all frontline officers to continue their vigilance and be on the lookout for victims of human trafficking. “The pandemic has opened up opportunities for these traffickers to exploit people in dire need of work,” said Morente. “We are the last line of defense in the border against these illegal acts, let us remain steadfast in our duty in protecting Filipinos from trafficking and illegal recruitment,” he added.