The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday vowed to cleanse its ranks after authorities found that three of its personnel were supposedly involved in human trafficking.
The ongoing probe will cover those inside and outside the bureau, said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval, who acknowledged that their personnel could have direct links to syndicates in Cambodia and other Asian countries that recruited Filipinos.
She said the investigation would not stop at the three BI personnel who were removed from their post.
“We are looking into how many could be involved in this not just internally but also externally,” Sandoval said in a televised briefing.
She said a reshuffling of personnel was in the works and said “no mercy” would be shown to those proven to be involved in human trafficking.
Sandoval said any immigration officers found involved in these schemes would be removed, and their case would be handed over to the Department of Justice for the filing of cases against them.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said a Chinese mafia in Cambodia was supposedly recruiting Filipinos to become cryptocurrency scammers.
One of the victims supposedly reached out to her office to detail how they were promised call center jobs, only to be forced to dupe citizens from other countries of their life savings.
She said she would conduct a hearing on the issue.
Hontiveros said Cambodia was a new hub of human trafficking, in which Filipino workers were forced to become cryptocurrency scammers.
The senator said immigration and airport terminal managers, among others, will be invited to the upcoming hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality to tackle the incessant cases of outbound human trafficking of Filipinos.
“Our Senate committee will spare no effort to ensure that accountability be established and justice served,” Hontiveros said.
“It is the duty of airport and immigration officers to be the last line of defense against the trafficking of our citizens,” she added.
The opposition solon said recruiters would reportedly pay around P75,000 to P100,000 to immigration officers for the questionable exit of every Filipino.
She said this information came from one of the Filipinos trafficked to Cambodia to work as a cryptocurrency scammer for a Chinese syndicate.
“Our Senate inquiries on the Pastillas scam resulted in the indictment of a number of BI officials, but it seems there are still groups or individuals within the agency who will stop at nothing to make an easy buck,” Hontiveros said.
The whistleblower, identified only as “Miles,” said she and other trafficking victims were told to exit the country from Clark, Pampanga, as the agent who recruited them had contacts with immigration officers in that airport.
“In Clark, they have escort from the immigration. There is an agent there who books their tickets. They already have a contact with an immigration officer. No interview, no documents being asked… they will just be directed and escorted to a line,” Hontiveros said.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is already aware of Filipinos being recruited as cryptocurrency scammers in Cambodia as it assured the public that the government is working on their repatriation.
DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo de Vega said the agency is already preparing for the return of Filipino victims not only in Cambodia but also in other parts of Southeast Asia.
Non-existing jobs being promised to Filipinos who were then forced to work in illegal operations such as online scamming, he said.
“We’re still at the initial stages of the investigation right now so we can’t disclose too much about what we have seen, but we received information that they might be linked to some human trafficking activities,” the BI spokesman said.