FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. wants “visa less” travel within Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) stopped since syndicates use this scheme to traffic Filipinas abroad as sex slaves.
“A lot of girls from Cotabato are trafficked to war zones to be sex slaves through visa less Asean. Stop visa less travel,” Locsin tweeted on Wednesday.
Citizens of Asean-member countries travel visa free within the region. The grouping is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Locsin was reacting to the tweet of Susan Ople, president of Blas F. Ople Policy Center, who said, “Ending modern slavery is a top priority of Barmm officials and its parliament.”
Barmm stands for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Ople lauded the IOM (International Organization for Migration) Philippines “for extending full support to the fight against human trafficking.”
“The practice of minors being deployed with fake passports abroad must end,” she said.
Sen. Ana Theresia Hontiveros wants an inquiry on the possible involvement of some Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel in the trafficking of Filipina workers.
The senator on February 2 sought an inquiry on the reported trafficking of Filipino women to Syria to work as domestic workers without their consent.
“We need to better understand the human trafficking ‘supply chain’ in order to craft more effective legislation to prosecute offenders and protect our women and children,” Hontiveros said.
She filed Senate Resolution 631 calling for the inquiry amid a recent report that 12 Filipinas were recruited to work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) but were trafficked to Syria.
“When we investigated the ‘pastillas scam’ in the Bureau of Immigration, we learned that aside from allowing the entry of Chinese nationals without inspection, outbound trafficking of Filipinos was also a ‘racket’ in the BI,” she said in Filipino.
Hontiveros dubbed the unlawful act as “pastillas” scheme because the money would be hidden in rolled bond paper like the wrapper for the milk candy.
“Are there institutions in the Philippines which lead or protect this racket?” the senator asked.
She added, “Are the masterminds of the pastillas scam the same people behind this massive business of human trafficking?”
While the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already committed to repatriate the remaining trafficked Filipino women in Syria, Hontiveros said it is imperative to conduct an inquiry on the issue “to better understand what she calls a ‘supply chain’ of abuse.”
Hontiveros noted that upon arriving in Dubai, the women were locked up inside a dark and dirty dormitory and were made to sleep on the floor.
The abuse carried on until their 30-day tourist visas expired and they could no longer seek legal employment in UAE, she continued.
“These women were physically abused and threatened the moment they expressed objection to being taken to Syria,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
SR 631 also aims to investigate the gendered dimensions of human trafficking in the Philippines, where an overwhelming majority of victims are women and girls because of their vulnerability, economic disadvantage, and the increased global demand for sexual services and domestic servitude.
“The pandemic will only drive many families further into poverty, making many members, especially women, more at risk of exploitation and abuse,” the senator said.
“The issue of human trafficking of our women is not new, and putting an end to this practice is long overdue,” Hontiveros said.