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27 Filipinos sold like slaves repatriated from Cambodia

Norman Tansingco
BI chief Norman Tansingco renews warning against offers to work illegally abroad. (JERRY S. TAN)

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco renewed his warning on the trafficking of Filipino workers to work as love scammers abroad as he also warned aspiring overseas workers not to accept offers of unscrupulous individuals to work illegally in several Asian countries as call center agents.

His warning comes after the repatriation of 27 Filipinos from Phnom Penh, Cambodia last December 8, after being rescued from their traffickers. The victims were assisted by officials from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after immigration clearance.

Reports show that 12 out of the 27 passengers departed illegally via boat from Zamboanga, evading formal immigration inspection. They allegedly traveled for 11 hours from Zamboanga to Sabah, Malaysia, before transferring to Cambodia.

Meantime, the other 14 all departed as regular tourists, claiming that they are traveling abroad for a holiday.

One of the repatriates was even a government employee, while the others had either a short term travel, traveling with friends, partner, or employer, or are gainfully employed. Only one departed as a documented overseas Filipino worker (OFW), but was supposedly bound for Palau and not Cambodia.

Tansingco said that the new batch of repatriates mostly left at the end of 2022 or the first half of 2023, which he said meant that the syndicate has not stopped receiving new recruits despite the numerous warnings sent out by the Philippine government.

“We have warned about this syndicate as early as October last year. It has been more than a year and we are still seeing victims being duped in accepting their fake offers,” said Tansingco.

The 27 victims recounted escaping their ordeal abroad, where they were forced to work as love scammers, targeting old men residing in the United Kingdom. Some of them experienced abuse and torture in the workplace, and were later sold by their Chinese employers to another company.

Luckily, Cambodian police rescued them during their transfer after being sold. They were later assisted by the Philippine Consulate in Phnom Penh.

“Imagine being a professional here but ended up being sold like a slave abroad? These are the real stories that we have been hearing every day, yet people continue to say yes to this,” Tansingco sighed.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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