Immigration agents bar 3 'trafficked' Pinays from leaving PHL

Authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) stopped Saturday evening three Middle East-bound Filipino women from boarding their flights due to absence of immigration departure stamps on their passports.

The trio, who were later found to be victims of human trafficking, admitted they slipped past the immigration area by mingling with foreign passengers and proceeding straight to their respective airline-boarding areas.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) supervisor Marlene Pedroalba said the three – Akisha May Ramos Austria, 21; Esmeralda Mandalones 43; and Jazel Obenza, 26 – were about to board the 6:00 p.m. flights of Cathay Pacific Airways and Emirates Air.

Pedroalba said BI-NAIA asked airport authorities for possible viewing of the CCTV (closed-circuit television) footage to get leads on the identities of possible cohorts of the three passengers.

According to her, BI agents have recovered incriminating notes or short messages pertaining illegal migration of the Filipinas to other countries from one of the mobile phones that were confiscated from the three.

“One of the victims said their supposed contacts at the airport instructed them to mingle with other passengers lining up for clearance at the immigration departure counter," she said.

The immigration officers on-duty, according to her, would sometimes fail to keep track of the number of passengers passing at their counters, and that the BI has set up a unit of officers stationed at the boarding gates to check if passengers have complete travel documents.

An initial investigation showed the Filipinas were given instructions by their "contacts" to go to the Sampaguita Lounge, which caters to passengers of Cathay Pacific and Emirates Air. While at the departure area and at the lounge, they were allegedly ordered to wait for further instructions on boarding.

During an investigation, the Filipinas said they had paid for passports and plane tickets, and later admitted that they were going to pay P33,000 each to their contacts for the "escorting operation." — B.L. Vergara/LBG, GMA News

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