A total of 688 persons were rescued by the Bureau of Immigrations (BI) in 66 successful anti-human trafficking operations last year with 41 suspects arrested and cases filed in courts, contrary to the US State Department Trafficking in Persons report of a lack of vigorous investigations into human trafficking crimes in the Philippines.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente disagreed with the US State Department report that, although the Philippines in 2021 maintained its Tier 1 ranking in its Trafficking in Persons report, it noted the lack of conviction of officials complicit in continued trafficking and vigorous investigation into labor trafficking crimes in the country.

BI said its officers at airports rescued 688 possible victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment in 2021. The agency also deferred the departure of 13,680 passengers last year for improper documentation.

“Some common schemes that these human traffickers and illegal recruiters would employ is the issuance of fake documents or tampered visas to their victims, falsified marriages, the continued attempt to use tourist visas to work abroad and duping underage Filipinos to work as household workers,” Morente added.

BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit said that of these, 491 are seen as possible human trafficking victims and were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for assistance and investigation.

The Bureau also turned over 197 victims who presented counterfeit or questionable work permits and job contracts to the Philippine Overseas Employment.
Morente said: “There is still a large number of minors and underage victims posing as legitimate workers that were intercepted this year despite the pandemic and despite the continuous warnings we have issued.”

In 2021, the Bureau reported that they intercepted flights of 326 minor victims, with 18 of them assuming identities of other persons. There were also 34 who presented during departure fraudulent or counterfeit documents upon checking by BI’s forensics documents laboratory.

A total of 197 individuals were turned over to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for presenting counterfeit or questionable overseas work permits and job contracts.

Of the 688, Morente said 326 were underage and minors, with 18 of them assuming the identities of other persons in their bid to leave the country.

In the Middle East, Morente said the age of those seeking to work as household service workers is 23. He said Immigration officers deferred the departure of 13, 680 passengers last year, majority of them due to improper documentation.

Last year, a Senate inquiry led by Sen. Riza Hontiveros uncovered a scheme involving corrupt Immigration personnel collecting at least PHP50,000 from human traffickers for each Filipina woman allowed to leave the country to work as servants or prostitutes.

Hontiveros said it is another version of the money-making schemes by corrupt Immigration officers, including the “pastillas scam” targeting Chinese nationals who were allowed to enter the country for a certain amount.