IMMIGRATION Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday said 28 officers of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) are under investigation for their alleged involvement in the trafficking of 44 overseas Filipina workers to Syria supposedly masterminded by scheming recruiters in cahoots with corrupt BI agents and airline employees.
Morente withheld the identities of the immigration officers but said the probe will be carried out by a fact-finding team that he created after the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Filipinas have indeed been sold to Syrian employers and forced to do hard labor for $200 salary a month.
“I have immediately ordered the creation of a fact-finding committee to find out how these victims were able to leave the country,” Morente said.
“As already proven in the past, we will not hesitate to make them face the harshest penalties,” he added.
Two former BI employees testified before the Senate committee on women last Tuesday that the group involved in the trafficking of Filipinas is the same syndicate that was behind the “pastillas” scam.
The witnesses said the syndicate was allegedly paid P50,000 per Filipina worker who will be escorted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Aside from BI agents, some airline visa readers are also part of the syndicate.
Morente said the alleged involvement of corrupt immigration officers in the trafficking of Filipinas, if proven true, is unfair to their colleagues, especially those assigned at the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, who are doing their job with zeal.
“I am at a loss for words from what I heard. I am disappointed and frustrated about the alleged involvement of BI personnel in these nefarious activities,” Morente said.
Last year, 86 immigration officers were suspended and charged before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in the “pastillas scam” where Chinese nationals were made to pay as much as P10,000 each in exchange for their seamless entry into the country.
Morente said the BI will also fully cooperate in the Senate investigation spearheaded by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.