Press Release
November 27, 2007

Villar dares BI to end human smuggling

Senate President Manny Villar today urged immigration officials to tighten its effort and end the continued operation of syndicated human smugglers in the country who endanger the lives of Filipinos working abroad.

Villar said the Bureau of Immigration must investigate cases and stop human trafficking involving Filipinos especially in the Middle East.

"Illegal recruiters are operating in connivance with erring immigration officials to sneak undocumented and underaged workers out of the country. Filipino workers continue to fall victims to these unscrupulous individuals and ended up being abused and maltreated," Villar said.

He added that human traffickers operate at airports under the guise of staff members of escort services.

Villar, in his recent visit to Jordan, learned that a growing number of distressed Filipino workers, mostly minors, ran away from their employers after allegedly experiencing maltreatment.

The Nacionalista Party president said under RA 9208 otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, trafficking and recruitment of persons below 18 years old is an unlawful act and an act of economic sabotage.

"Our embassy in Jordan presented to me a number of Filipino workers, mostly minors, who sought refuge there. They did not receive the promised remuneration for their job as domestic helpers and were harshly treated by their employers," he said.

Villar helped in the repatriation of eight under-aged wards of the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Amman, Jordan who are from Mindanao by shouldering their plane fare back to the Philippines.

One of these minors is Nisan Salendab Labay who arrived last Friday. Labay, 17, is a native of Tantangan, South Cotabato. She is the eldest in a brood of seven. She left the country in September baring a fake passport and with an expectation that working abroad will give her family a better future.

To earn a living, his father Olimpen, grows peanuts. Labay only finished Grade 2 and was glad when a woman came to their village offering employment abroad and a chance to help his father earn a living for their family. She worked as a domestic helper in Jordan but escaped after experiencing abuse from her employer and her employment agency.

Villar said he is of the suspicion that Labay was able to leave the country without proper documentation after airport personnel escorted her past the immigration checks.

"Perpetrators of this illegal act who took advantage of the situation of our poor countrymen in far-flung areas must be hunted down and dealt with the full force of the law," he said.

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