Social media used to lure trafficked Filipinas

AKLAN, Philippines – The rescued victims of human trafficking at Kalibo International Airport (KIA) were lured by illegal recruiters through their social media accounts, a government official said.

Facebook is being used by traffickers in recruiting would-be victims, according to Arlyn Siatong, officer in charge of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Aklan office.

One of the victims was befriended by recruiters using social media with false promises of legitimate and better work opportunities overseas.

Last January 16, the applicant-victims, between 32 and 33 years old from Angeles City, Pampanga and Cawayan City, Isabela, reported the allegedly illegal recruitment activities to the DOLE office in Kalibo, Aklan.

"Galing sila sa Maynila. Hindi nila nakikita ang recruiter nila. Lahat tawag or text ang instructions sa kanila. Dito lang nila nalaman sa Kalibo na papuntang Lebanon at hindi sa Malaysia sila magtrabaho…Ang dala lang nila ay ang kanilang passports…Wala silang ibang dokumento tulad ng overseas employment certificate at employment contract," Siatong said.

(They came from Manila. They did not see their recruiter. All their instructions were given through calls or text messages. It was only here in Kalibo that they learned they were going to Lebanon and not Malaysia…All they brought were their passports…They don't have other documents such as overseas employment certificates and employment contracts.)

Another victim, a returning overseas worker, told the DOLE official she was surprised by the "recruitment process" and the absence of necessary working permits from government agencies.

"Dinala namin ang mga applicants sa Kalibo PNP after ng profiling namin, dahil naghinala sila sa proseso ng employment," Siatong said. (We brought the applicants to Kalibo PNP after our profiling because they became suspicious about the employment process.)

Entrapment operation

An entrapment operation was spearheaded by the Kalibo police and the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) as police officers in plain clothes were deployed to the airport at around 12:30 pm on January 20. 

The recruiters were supposed to "smuggle out" the victims without proper work documents to Lebanon via KIA. However, authorities intercepted them inside the airport's pre-departure area before their scheduled 3 pm flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Ang tatlong biktima na nag-report sa atin at itong pang-apat na biktima ay doon na mismo sa airport nagkita-kita. We never expected na ganoon kabilis na wala nang questioning sa immigration counters...kaagad na tinatakan ang passports ng mga biktima...walang hinanap na documents," Siatong said.

(The 3 victims reported it to us, and the 4th victim met them at the airport itself. We never expected that it would be so quick, without questioning at the immigration counters…They immediately stamped their passports…They did not look for documents.)

The 3 applicant-victims, who initially reported the illegal recruitment to DOLE-Aklan office, and another woman victim were taken into custody by the police after the operation.

Meanwhile, 3 illegal recruiters, a tricycle driver, and an airport porter were also arrested while two female immigration officers were invited for questioning at the Kalibo municipal police station for their alleged involvement. –