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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

NBI to probe ’fake exit’ stamp in human trafficking

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the use of fake stamps at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in facilitating the departure of trafficked individuals.

“We’re already investigating that. We’re asking the NBI to investigate it,” Remulla said during an ambush interview on Thursday.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, an alleged human trafficking victim revealed that someone at the airport would escort them and expedite their departure using fake exit stamps to bypass the BI.

Alias “Paulo” said he had been recruited to work as a customer service representative in Thailand but found out he would be sent to work as a scammer in Myanmar.

Remulla said they were using the hearing as the starting point.

In related developments, BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco urged airport authorities to investigate the rising cases of attempted trafficking involving fake entry passes.

Tansingco issued an order to BI Port Operations Division Chief Carlos Capulong to coordinate with the Manila International Airport Authorities (MIAA) to request a thorough investigation of the issue.

The concern came after airport security and police intercepted three victims earlier last month.

The victims reportedly used fake airport access passes, pretending to be employees of various airport concessionaires, to be able to enter the boarding gates.

Earlier, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said it was not dismissing the possible involvement of its personnel in the plot.

For her part, Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said they have yet to find links tying BI personnel to the issue, but they are open to an investigation.

Sandoval said the BI also believes that the individuals or syndicate behind the alleged use of fake passes may be in cahoots with airport personnel.

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, gave assurances her committee would continue its probe to hold liable groups or individuals in the Bureau of Immigration and MIAA involved in the smuggling of Filipinos to Myanmar.

She also stressed that the border control in the Philippines should be strengthened to ensure that Filipinos would not fall victims to syndicates.

“We also need to bring back to the country Filipinos who were trafficked to other countries to do scamming,” she said.

The senator also cited the need for coordination of different government agencies like DFA, DMW, and OWWA, adding there was also a need for coordination with other countries.

“Moving forward, there have to be clear transborder solutions,” she said.

The Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia are bound by the ASEAN convention against trafficking in persons so there should be tighter coordination to curb this crime.

She said it was important that there should be coordination and assistance with countries like US, Canada, Germany, and UK particularly since their people were oftentimes victims by scams.

Hontiveros acknowledged there was no immediate solution to the current difficulties we are facing.

“So, it is necessary to expedite the conduct of programs and policies that will give a decent life to every Filipino.”

Paulo explained that his recruiter, one identified as Laisa Magallanes, told him that an “escort” would help with immigration to expedite his departure from the Philippines. He was also told that P30,000 would be deducted from his salary for this service.

In the hearing last week, Hontiveros also called attention to the OFWs who are still in Myanmar, many of whom are physically abused by their Chinese employers.

She introduced alias Baby, a trafficked Filipino who almost died in the hands of her Chinese employer in Shwe Kokko.

Tansingco raised the urgency of the concern after hearing that another victim was intercepted by airport authorities.

The BI received a report that last November 16, another female victim was intercepted by aviation security personnel. The victim, bound for Kuala Lumpur, presented a fake access pass and attempted to enter the
employees’ entrance.

Her passport and boarding pass also contained fake stamps, which she said, were only given to her outside airport premises.

Tansingco added that previous victims might have used the employees’ entrance to evade strict departure assessment, to depart the country to illegally work in countries such as Myanmar.

“We are trying to see if these two cases are linked. This is already a big security issue, and we see the need to refer the matter for a thorough investigation, together with local law enforcement agencies and the MIAA,” he added.

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