Immigration authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport rescued 34 women who were stopped from leaving the country for Saudi Arabia where they were illegally recruited to work as household service workers.
Bureau of Immigration port operations chief Grifton Medina said the victims were intercepted at the NAIA Terminal 1 as they were about to board a Saudi Airways flight to Riyadh.
Medina said the victims, mostly in their 20s and 30s, were not allowed to depart after Immigration officers noticed glaring discrepancies and irregularities in the travel documents they presented.
“Our primary inspectors initially encountered two of their companions who happen to have been previously barred from leaving on suspicion of being trafficking victims,” Medina said.
“It was while they were undergoing secondary inspection that our men uncovered that they were traveling as a group with 32 other victims,” he added.
Ma. Timotea Barizo, BI’s travel control and enforcement unit chief, said the incident saw one of the biggest interceptions of suspected trafficking victims by BI-NAIA personnel in recent years.
Barizo said that the 34 presented documents as overseas Filipino workers, but upon verification, numerous inconsistencies were discovered.
“The job descriptions on the visas of the victims indicated that they were hired as household service workers but their overseas employment certificates and job contracts state that they were recruited as cleaners in companies. Discrepancies like this are not allowed, especially when the actual work is in households rather than in companies, which puts our workers in greater risk,” said Barizo.
Barizo added that they were able to establish that their OECs were spurious as confirmed by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration representatives at the airport.
The women, whose names were not divulged due to a prohibition in the anti-trafficking law, were later turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for assistance and further investigation.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, meanwhile, lauded the BI personnel responsible for rescuing the victims, as he observed that the trafficking attempt was made during the peak season and the opening of Southeast Asian Games).
“Our officers are working day and night to ensure that our kababayan will not be victimized by these human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” said Morente. “I wish to remind aspiring OFWs not to fall prey to these unscrupulous individuals,” he added.
Morente earlier placed on heightened alert the BI’s personnel at NAIA and other major ports to thwart any attempts by syndicates to facilitate the illegal entry and departure of foreign and local travelers to and from the country during the holiday season and the conduct of the SEAG.