Three teenage girls told a Senate panel on Tuesday how their passports were fabricated to bring them to Syria in what a lawmaker leading the inquiry said was indicative of the Philippines' human trafficking problem.
Senator Risa Hontiveros presented video clips of the girls, alias Omaima, Aleah, and Lenlen, during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations, and Gender Equality.
Omaima and Aleah were both recruited in 2008 as minors, while Lenlen was recruited only in 2018. While the three women returned to the Philippines last year, they revealed that they suffered maltreatment from their employers abroad.
Hontiveros slammed "unscrupulous" recruiters and human traffickers for taking advantage of and manipulating the children.
"This is a disgusting modus that needs to be stopped. Kung hindi natin malulutas ang problemang ito at kung hindi mapanagot ang mga kriminal, parang hinayaan na rin nating manakaw ang kinabukasan ng ating kabataan," she said.
Hontiveros likewise called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to look into the supposed schemes and enterprises that tamper with or forge passports, including the so-called "baklas passport" scheme, where the passport details of the trafficked women are those of another person.
"Paano nakakalusot ang ganitong mga kalakaran? Is there a government official colluding with human trafficking criminals? Huwag naman sana. Kung hindi man sila kasabwat, dapat malinawan ng DFA ang mga pag-aalala natin," the senator said.
In an earlier hearing, Hontiveros also presented cases of trafficked overseas Filipino workers, who were supposed to work in Dubai only to be illegally transported to Syria.
The OFWs have accused personnel from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) of being involved in their trafficking to the Middle Eastern state.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said during the hearing that the fact-finding committee tasked to investigate the case of the trafficked OFWs has already recommended the filing of charges against the involved BI personnel before the Department of Justice.