By Jun Ramirez
Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have stumbled upon a racket used by human trafficking syndicates in facilitating the departure of undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Bureau of Immigration (BI) port operations chief Grifton Medina said the scheme was detected after a female OFW bound for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was intercepted for presenting a fake clearance from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
“It appears that the syndicates are now faking the stamp and signatures of POEA personnel at the airport in order to dupe immigration officers into believing that the employment papers of their victims are genuine,” Medina said.
He warned OFWs against falling prey to the said scheme, saying “it will not escape the watchful eyes of our vigilant immigration officers.”
It was learned that the passenger was about to board her flight for Dubai last Sunday when she was intercepted by members of the BI’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) at the NAIA 3 terminal.
When the immigration officer asked her to have her overseas employment certificate (OEC) validated and cleared at the POEA counter, she went to her handler, who was outside the immigration area, who stamped the OEC and signed it.
The trick, however, did not work as the doubting BI officers conferred with POEA personnel to check if the said OEC was presented to them for verification and clearance.
“The lady manning the POEA counter was surprised upon seeing the stamp on the OEC and denied that she cleared and signed the document,” said BI-TCEU chief Erwin Ortañez.
Under questioning, the passenger eventually confessed that she received from her handler the OEC as well as her job contract and working visa at the airport a few hours before her scheduled flight.