SENATOR Risa Hontiveros revealed on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, the possible links of several personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in the outbound trafficking of Filipinos to Myanmar for a crypto-scamming job.

During the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality hearing, Hontiveros presented “Paulo” (real name withheld for security) who was recruited to work in a telemarketing company in Thailand but ended up working in Myanmar as a scammer of crypto currencies.

Paulo identified his recruiter as Laisa Magallanes, who told him that he will no longer go through the immigration process upon exiting the country. For this, he will have to pay P30,000, which will be deducted from his salary.

He said he had second thoughts at first but went with it anyway considering how hard life is.

"Kahit hindi dumadaan ng immigration counter, natatakan ang passport ni Paulo ng official exit stamp ng BI. May umasikaso sa kanya sa airport, hindi siya pinapila sa immigration, at binigyan siya ng pekeng ID ng WHSmith, isang tindahan sa NAIA Terminal 3, para magpanggap siyang empleyado. Biglang natakot si Paulo sa prosesong pinapatahak sa kanya, kaya't sinabihan niya ang recruiter na di na siya tutuloy," Hontiveros said.

"Para itong pastillas part 2, pero mas malala at mas mapusok. May kinalaman din ba ang mga airport security o personnel? Nasa bulsa at kakuntsaba ba ng mga BI o airport officials ang mga illegal recruiter? Ang sakit na napapahamak ang napakaraming Pilipino sa ibang bansa dahil sa kapwa nating Pilipino na nananamantala dahil sa pansariling interes," she added.

In 2020, several officials from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) were implicated in the infamous “pastillas scheme” which allowed foreign travelers to enter the country without background checks in exchange of grease money which is being wrapped in a paper, similar to a famous Filipino dessert which was made out of milk, during payouts.

Last week, Hontiveros who authored the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022, gave a privilege speech about alias Rita, and 11 other overseas Filipino workers, who were promised jobs in Thailand, but were trafficked to Myanmar to become crypto scammers of a Chinese syndicate based in Shwe Kokko town.

In her affidavit, Rita, who vowed to help the government in the conduct of investigation on the said human trafficking issues said her recruiter briefed her including on what to respond in order to pass the Philippine immigration noting that she pretended to be on a tour trip.

She said her recruiter arranged everything she needed to make the Philippine immigration believe she was travelling for vacation such as bank statements, certificates of employment and work leave documents.

From Thailand, they were brought to Myanmar through a shady route.

“Ang totoong nangyari sa kanila, pagdating ng Thailand, tumawid sa Myanmar, so and nung nangyayari na yun, tinawagan na ni Rita ‘yung kanyang recruiter dahil naguguluhan na siya, kung saan-saan sila pinapapunta, imagine, pito hanggang walong oras sila sa daan, wala silang internet, at pakiramdam para silang bulag,” Hontiveros said in a radio interview.

“Hindi na nila alam kung nasaan sila, paano pinatawid sila ng ilog, pinadaan sa masukal na lugar, madilim noon at nakakatakot dahil marami silang armadong lalakeng nakikita na sinasalubong sila sa daan,” she added.

Rita said using fake identities, they will look for a client online who will invest in their bogus cryptocurrency operation.

On their first investment, the money will be given back to the clients after it gains interest and they wish to withdraw to encourage them to invest more.

Rita said they will be beaten and threatened if they do not meet their targets.

She said there were more Filipinos in the facility in Myanmar involved in crypto currency scam waiting for rescue.

Hontiveros called for the concerned government agency for the conduct of investigation on the matter to stop the illegal scheme. (SunStar Philippines)