Government operatives busted a human trafficking syndicate led by a Lebanese during simultaneous operations held last Monday in Zamboanga City, Caloocan City and Bulacan, officials said on Wednesday.
The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said the simultaneous operations resulted to the arrest of the leader of a human trafficking group who was identified as Pascal Sreih alias ‘Kuya Mario,’ his wife, Vilma Rosa Matagay, alias ‘Sarah,’ two immigration personnel identified as Joey Escobar and Fedel Mendoza and two other unidentified suspects.
During the operation on Monday, Mendoza signaled the 11 recruits to approach the table being manned by Escobar. Then, as agreed upon by the group, Escobar stamped the passports of eight victims, the PAOCC said.
There were three girls, however, who were not able to have their passports stamped because they were not wearing pink pony tails, which the group used to identify the “new recruits.” The girls were subsequently offloaded and their passports confiscated.
The human trafficking victims rescued on Monday said that Sreih and his wife recruited them as domestic workers in Lebanon and were promised that they will reach Lebanon with the help of the immigration contacts. All were issued tourist visas, PAOCC said in the statement.
The PAOCC’s investigation showed that applicants surrendered their passports before they were housed in Camarin, Caloocan City. The victims are then ferried to Zamboanga City using spurious travel documents then to Lebanon via Sandakan or Sabah, Malaysia.
The operation was launched after the commission received reports that the suspects are smuggling young Filipinas to Sabah in Malaysia. Bureau of Immigration officers under the payroll of the syndicate reportedly aided them.
The PAOCC said members of the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Center for Transnational Crime headed by Undersecretary Felizardo Serapio and the Naval Intelligence Security Force joined forces to bust the syndicate.
The PAOCC added that authorities are investigating the possible connivance of rogue law enforcement agents with the syndicate, claiming that criminal charges against the traffickers were intentionally mishandled in exchange for some monetary consideration.