Senate to probe possible outbound trafficking of women by ‘pastillas’ perpetrators

Published October 21, 2020, 2:58 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality will be looking into another possible illegal revenue scheme that has been spawned by the so-called “pastillas” scam.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate women’s panel said, her committee may next zero in on the possibility that some immigration officials are involved in the trafficking of Filipino women for prostitution overseas.

According to Hontiveros, her panel is already gathering information and has “solid leads” regarding “outbound trafficking and prostitution abroad.”

“No final details yet but nakakabigat ng puso (it breaks our heart) having to turn our eyes towards that. We started with inbound trafficking and prostitution and now having discovered the ‘pastillas’ scheme … having been able to turn a more skeptical eye to this Visa-Upon-Arrival  (VUA) policy, now we have to turn to outbound trafficking and prostitution abroad,” Hontiveros said in an interview over ANC Headstart.

“We already have some solid leads and we will do everything in our power, by partnering with the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the Office of the Ombudsman, to put a stop to this,” the senator stressed.

The senator’s committee took the lead in investigating the rampant prostitution rings catering to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers early this year and eventually discovered the “pastillas” scam –a bribery scheme where Chinese citizens supposedly pay P10,000 each to ensure their smooth processing and arrival at the country’s airports even without proper documents.

Hontiveros said there is a general sentiment that the VUA scheme became the channels “for inbound trafficked women bound for prostitution.”

“We started looking at Pogo and trafficking and everything related in the past months, dahil nakurap na mismo ang BI, nabawasan ang proteksyon ng rights and welfare of our Filipinas and children,” she said.

She said even Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, had also put on record, that he will recommend the cancellation of the VUA altogether.

“Kasi bakit hinayaang mga travel agencies ang mag-process nito. Bakit it has become apparently a channel for trafficking and for prostitution here in the Philippines,” she pointed out.