VP Binay: Hunt on for traffickers of some Pinoy repatriates from Syria
Authorities are now tracking down the recruiters of 37 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were repatriated from strife-torn Syria earlier this week, after most of them turned out to be victims of human trafficking, Vice President Jejomar Binay said.
Binay, the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, said 31 of the 37 who arrived with him in the Philippines on Monday night admitted in interviews conducted by members of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) that they were human trafficking victims.
Binay is chairman emeritus of the IACAT.
"Out of the 37 OFWs, 31 were found to be victims of human trafficking. Twenty three were both trafficked and illegally recruited, while 25 were victims of illegal recruitment," a news release posted on the Office of the Vice President (OVP) website said on Friday.
The lone male OFW repatriate, who hails from Pangasinan and was the oldest in the group at 57 years old, was a victim of both illegal recruitment and human trafficking, the OVP added.
Binay said they also found out that four of the OFWs were 21 to 22 years old and have been working in Syria for three to four years.
“Based on these facts, it can be safely assumed that they were still minors when they left the country,” he said.
On the other hand, he said another five OFWs admitted to using assumed identities in their passports.
"All of them are from Mindanao,” he said.
Most of the repatriated workers are from Mindanao, with majority of them victims of illegal recruitment, Binay added.
“I have already instructed the IACAT to trace the agencies who recruited these workers,” he said.
“The interviews that we conduct will go a long way in helping us identify recruitment agencies violating existing deployment rules in the country. These would also help us root out government officials and personnel involved in illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons,” he added.
Under Republic Act 9208 or The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, human trafficking or trafficking in persons is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person or persons… by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or position… for the purpose of exploitation such as sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery.”
RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 meanwhile defines illegal recruitment as “any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, procuring workers” by any person or agency not licensed by the Department of Labor.
Earlier, Binay ordered the mandatory interview of all returning OFWs regardless of country of origin after the IACAT discovered a minor worker who arrived from Syria during a cursory interview in January. - VVP, GMA News