Fifty-two victims of human trafficking were rescued Saturday by law enforcement authorities at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) on their way to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The rescue was carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in coordination with the PNP’s Aviation Security Group (AVSEGROUP) at the PPCIA.
NBI special investigator 3 Cedric Caabay said the human trafficking victims came from Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Iloilo, Cebu, Isabela, Tarlac, Ilocos Sur, Mindoro, Pangasinan, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Marinduque, Bacolod, Cavite, and Manila.
“Iba-ibang lugar ang pinanggalingan nila. Ayon sa pag-conduct natin ng inventory ng mga passports at ibang travel documents nila ay umabot sila ng 52. Sa ngayon nandito pa sila dahil nasa kustodiya sila ng Department of Social Welfare and Developement (DSWD) pansamantala at ginagawaan ng paraan ang kanilang pagbalik sa kanilang pamilya dahil ‘yon ang kanilang kahilingan,” Caabay said.
“Ang destinations nila ay papuntang Dubai through Hong Kong. Dadaan sila ng Hong Kong hanggang sa makarating sa Dubai,” he added.
Most of them were supposed to leave via a 4:20 p.m. Cebu Pacific flight to Hongkong and only three through Tiger Air for Taipei, Taiwan.
He said another batch was supposed to arrive from Manila on the night of December 7 but did not board their flight to Palawan after being informed that their documents were illegal.
“Actually, tatlo sila ang may flight ng gabi at may ini-expect pa sila na mga darating from Manila ng 9 p.m., kasamahan daw nila papunta ng Taiwan. Pero na-inform din yata nila itong mga kasamahan nila na illegal pala ‘yong kanilang dokumento kaya hindi sila natuloy,” Caabay said.
One of the victims who cannot be named, but was interviewed claimed that they were told by their recruiters to follow instructions as soon as they reached Puerto Princesa City.
She claimed the illegal recruiter told them that the instruction will come from personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) who have already been “paid”.
Responding to 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.
He said the NBI has the names of two suspected illegal recruiters, but will not disclose them due to follow-up investigations they have already coordinated with their central office.
Caabay also said they were stopped from leaving the country following tip-offs and a letter requesting their assistance from a concerned agency.
“Sa mga kababayan natin na gustong mangibang bansa at maghanapbuhay, hindi tayo against doon. Ang nagiging problema lang ay sana sundin natin ‘yong tamang proseso, tamang requirements ng gobyerno dahil isang pagkakamali at maging undocumented tayo ay malaking problema ang ating hahanapin. Baka kasi maabuso tayo physically at sexually ay sa bansa natin ang balik niyan,” he said.