President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment to intensify the government’s anti-illegal recruitment campaign to ensure the welfare of overseas Filipino workers.
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In a speech Thursday, Duterte asked Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista to form a “structure” to go after illegal recruiters.
“I used the word ‘general’ because I am sending [Bautista] a message now that you have to do more. Since you are a military man, then I hope you can come up with a structure, a bigger one, to go after recruitment, and so goes for the Department of Labor and everybody,” the President said during the awarding rites of the Presidential Award for Child-Friendly Municipalities and Cities.
“My order is to really get them. You should know where to fish for them,” he added.
In a related development, Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other ports have been ordered to rigidly screen Filipinos traveling to Dubai following reports that human trafficking syndicates were using the emirate as a transit point for illegally deploying overseas Filipino workers to Iraq.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the order after the Department of Foreign Affairs recently alerted the bureau about the alleged recruitment by syndicates through social media of Filipino workers to Iraq despite the ongoing ban on the deployment of OFWs there.
Reports say that online ads advertising newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq allegedly circulated online and falsely claimed that the deployment ban has been lifted.
“Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work,” Morente said.
Duterte also vowed to meet the needs of overseas Filipino workers by creating more work and livelihood opportunities for them in the country.
“Let me assure you that in return, we, in government, will continue to ensure that your efforts to uplift the lives of your families shall not be put in vain,” he said.
“The government’s ultimate goal [for] OFWs is to [provide] them sustainable work and livelihood opportunities in our country. So someday, somehow, this will remain as one of the top priorities of my government,” Duterte added.
The President also called the United Nations “inutile” as he claimed that the organization has not done anything to put an end to piracy in international waters and prevent wars.
The President also lamented the sexual abuses and slavery experienced by overseas Filipino workers, particularly in Middle East, recalling how parents of three illegally recruited teenagers sought his help.
“You know the illegal recruitment is non-bailable. Well, sometimes it’s a very sad thing to be here knowing that there are still plenty of Filipinos going abroad,” he said.
Under the Republic Act 10022, illegal recruitment is defined as any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers for employment abroad when undertaken by non-licensee or non-holder of authority.
A person found guilty of illegal recruitment shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of 12 to 20 years and a fine of P1 million up to P2 million.
Life imprisonment shall be imposed if illegal recruitment constitutes economic sabotage, wherein a syndicate or a group of three persons or more conspired to commit the activity, according to the law.
The BI chief also instructed airport officers to monitor names of several OFWs allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad, which the bureau obtained from the DFA.
“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection,” Morente said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine embassy in Baghdad said recruits were already issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.
“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad. Our immigration officers were already properly alerted of this scheme so they better think twice,” BI-POD chief Grifton Medina said.
The victims have allegedly agreed to reimburse the deployment cost incurred by their recruiters through salary deduction.
“This is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage,” said Morente.
“These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries. When they get to their work sites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt,” he warned.