Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has mandated that all repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) regardless of origin will now be interviewed upon arrival in the country.
Binay, the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns and concurrent Chairman Emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) ordered the mandatory interviews after the IACAT’s discovery of an alleged minor worker who arrived from Syria.
The discovery was made during a cursory interview of 56 repatriatedSyrian workers by members of the IACAT from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) on January 7.
“Our OVP staff noticed that a female worker who looked suspiciously very much younger than her declared age. The passport she presented said she was in her 30s, but when she was interviewed, she admitted that the passport she was using wasn’t hers,” Binay said.
The Vice President said that IACAT was now conducting regular interviews of repatriates because this would help the council build a database of repatriated Filipinos and offloaded International-bound passengers, which in turn would help the IACAT determine the manner of deployment.
“It would also help establish a possible pattern of deployment being done by illegal recruiters and trafficking syndicates, minimize re-victimization of Filipino irregular OFWs, minimize repatriation costs,” the Vice President added.
Binay said the IACAT also hopes to identify recruitment agencies violating existing deployment rules in the country as well as government officials and personnel involved in illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons.
On January 13, another 73 women repatriates from Syria arrived in the country. Of the 73, only eight were regular workers.
During the initial verification of their passports by IACAT members from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI), and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Task Force Against Trafficking (NIATFAT), it was discovered that most of the women were holders of tampered passports. Also, during the interviews conducted by the IACAT, 10 women admitted to using assumed identities.
“Some passports had substituted pages and photos, others had counterfeit border stamps,” Binay said.
“During the interviews, we also found out that all 73 women were not able to receive the actual salaries promised to them. Even the eight regular/documented OFWs did not receive the agreed salaries. Sixty of them were subjected to unfair labor and exploitation. They were victims of sexual, physical and verbal abuses not only by their employers but by the agency personnel based in Syria,” he added.
To prevent this from happening in the future, Binay said that the IACAT recently begun implementing the new guidelines on departure formalities for international-bound Filipino passengers in all airports and seaports in the country.#