The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has relieved its personnel at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) pending investigation of alleged involvement in the recent human trafficking case involving 52 individuals who were supposed to leave through Palawan as overseas Filipino workers.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Mengote Sandoval said Wednesday to Palawan News (PN) in a phone interview that Alferson Peralta, their airport personnel, had been relieved since December 11 while they are probing the case.

She said the relieve order was due to the December 7 alleged human trafficking attempt of 52 individuals that was foiled by the local office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Sandoval said although only Peralta was relieved, all immigration personnel at the PPCIA are under probe because of the case.

“As of December 11 siya relieved of his duties. The entire immigration personnel is under investigation. Hindi pa ako puwedeng maglabas ng information about the investigation. After na lang, kapag na con-conclude ito saka kami magbibigay ng iba pang detalye,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the BI has around eight personnel handling immigration duties and responsibilities at the international airport here.

The human trafficking victims were supposed to leave the country through the PPCIA as overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

NBI special investigator 3 Cedric Caabay said they were from Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Iloilo, Cebu, Isabela, Tarlac, Ilocos Sur, Mindoro, Pangasinan, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Marinduque, Bacolod, Cavite, and Manila.

One of the victims claimed they were told by their recruiters that they have to follow the instructions of a BI personnel at the PPCIA who has already been “paid” so they can leave the country.

On this, Caabay said they have requested a meeting with the local BI to determine the veracity of the claim.

“Regarding sa issue na ito, napag-usapan na rin namin sa aming tanggapan na mag-se-set kami ng schedule para magkaroon kami ng conference with the immigration at malaman kung bakit may isyung ganito bago tayo makakagawa ng report,” he said.

NBI Palawan head agent Norman Decampong, meanwhile, said Monday in an interview also with PN that during their operation, there were also immigration officers present at the city international airport with them.

He said their operation to stop the victims from leaving was also due to a request by the BI central office.

“Meron doong immigration kasi pag may international flight may immigration officers, kasi bago makalipad dadaan muna sa immigration,” he said.

“They cooperated properly during the operation,” he added.

On the involvement of BI personnel, Decampong said they cannot say anything until the matter is proven.

“Hangga’t hindi napapatunayan, mahihirapan tayo. Mag-co-conduct lang tayo ng investigation until such time na meron tayong ebidensiya,” he said. (with a report from Jayra Joyce Taboada)