By Francis B. Bilowan

MANILA, Nov. 9 (PNA) – Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) stumbled upon a new modus operandi of human traffickers with the recent arrest of three prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who concealed their travel documents in their underwear in an attempt to hide their true destinations.

Bureau of Immigration Officer-In-Charge Ronaldo Ledesma said the three female “tourist workers” were intercepted at the NAIA last Oct. 25 as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Singapore.

It turned out that the women, who pretended to be tourists, were actually bound for Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. The government bans the deployment of female workers to Lebanon.

“It appears that the illegal recruiters and human trafficking syndicates are using all tricks so their victims can avoid detection by immigration officers,” Ledesma said.

He said the new modus operandi is a sign of desperation on the part of the syndicates whose operations are reportedly severely crippled by the BI’s intensified drive against human trafficking.

Immigration officers at the NAIA and other airports have offloaded thousands of departing “tourist workers” since August when the government, through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), launched its aggressive anti-human trafficking drive.
The IACAT is headed by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, who is also the undersecretary in charge of the Bureau of Immigration.

Lawyer Arvin Santos, BI airport operations division chief, said the three female passengers were queuing for clearance at the NAIA immigration counter when they were invited for questioning by members of the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) because they were acting strange.

While undergoing secondary inspection, the women apparently panicked and revealed their true plans.

“They pulled out their visas and plane tickets from their underwear after we managed to bluff them into revealing their final destinations,” Santos said.

The hidden travel documents showed that from Singapore, the passengers have connecting flights to Beirut and Dubai, he said.