Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente informed the Senate that agency has rolled out a full investigation on the departure of 44 women trafficked in Syria.
The update was revealed during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality, chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros.
“We received information from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs about 44 women in Syria that were victimized by human trafficking syndicates,” said Morente. “I have ordered the immediate creation of a fact-finding committee to find out how these victims were able to depart the Philippines,” he added.
During the senate hearing, Morente expressed his commitment to assist the Senate Committee in investigating those involved in the scheme. “I am disappointed and frustrated about the alleged involvement of BI personnel in these nefarious activities,” he said.
He shared that at least 28 immigration officers are being investigated on their involvement in said scheme. “As already proven in the past, we will not hesitate to make them face the harshest penalties,” said Morente.
In the hearing, Morente thanked those who testified for sharing their experiences to bring to light the issue. “The alleged involvement of a handful of immigration personnel with such schemes give the BI a bad name. It is unfair to many good immigration officers who perform their jobs religiously and faithfully, especially those involved in activities of the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking)”.
Morente bared that from 2017 to 2020, a total of 112,033 Filipinos were stopped from leaving the country for attempting to leave with improper documents. “Majority of this number were those seen to be workers leaving in the guise of being tourists,” he shared.
In the same period, a total of 1,070 victims were also referred to the IACAT for being possible victims of trafficking in persons.
Because of the efforts of the BI, together with other members of the council, the Philippines has upgraded and consistently retained its Tier 1 ranking for the fifth year in a row, in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, proving the agency’s significant efforts to protect departing Filipinos.
A Tier 1 rating means the Philippines has continually demonstrated serious and sustained efforts to combat the crime, making the country the forerunner in the South East Asian region when it comes to efforts against human trafficking. SOVEREIGNPH