9 human trafficking victims have been rescued and repatriated to the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.
It said that those repatriated arrived in two batches from Malaysia and Thailand last May 9 and May 11, respectively. The batch from bangkok allegedly left the country in the last quarter of 2022 as tourists and were promised customer service jobs with a pay range P40,000 to P60,000.
“Like other cases of human trafficking in the Southeast Asian region, the victims were transported to Mae Sot City, Myanmar to be forced to work in online love scams and crypto rings,” said BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco.
The victims recounted how they had to endure physical torture for not meeting their quota. They were detained until they could pay ransom for their release.
“We always hear the stories of our repatriated kababayans – each story worse after the other. It is gut-wrenching hearing how they suffered. One of them shared how their parents had to sell their farm land to produce a large-sum of money just to be given to those criminals.” said the BI chief.
“Imagine the mental and emotional torture the victims and their families went through. That is not something one easily recovers from.” he added.
All six passengers were recruited by strangers they met on Facebook.
Tansingco then disclosed that the other batch of repatriates are composed of three passengers who left the country for Malaysia via boat through Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi.
According to the victims, they all left the country in the last quarter of 2022 to work as massage therapists in Miri, Malaysia.
Little did they know that they would be forced to engage in sex work in spa parlors offering ‘extra service'.
9 more Filipinos rescued from online, sex trafficking rings in Thailand, Malaysia – BI
The victims recounted how they were forced to work every day and were only given rest days during their monthly period.
“Sex trafficking is a direct attack to one's rights and dignity. It is dangerous, degrading, and is exploitative of women and children.” the BI Chief said.
Even when they were rescued by Malaysian authorities, the victims alleged that they were forced to clean restrooms at a police station where they were also verbally abused.
They eventually managed to contact the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur, which then assisted them in their repatriation.
Upon their arrival in Manila, they disclosed that they were recruited by “Cherry”. “Juvy”, and “Lorena” who facilitated their departure to evade inspection in the ports of Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi.
Immigration Commissioner Tansingco then reiterated the agency's warning to the public not to fall prey to human trafficking schemes. “Securing documents to work abroad might be tedious, but it also protects aspiring overseas Filipino workers against illegal recruitment and other hazards abroad,” he said. “Remember that the security measures imposed by the government are in place as we prefer prevention over repatriation,” added Tansingco.
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