The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has appealed to Filipinos to be more discerning in applying for a job abroad in order to prevent them from falling prey to illegal recruiters.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose De Vega made the statement following the rescue of eight overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from human traffickers in Myanmar.
De Vega said they have so far received many reports of OFWs hired by recruiters and were promised to work as encoders in Bangkok, Thailand only to be brought across the border.
Although the number of cases like this have not reached thousands, the DFA refers to it as a "huge problem", especially if Filipinos are brought to countries that are experiencing a crisis like Myanmar.
De Vega urged aspiring OFWs to "go through the proper process" and to not listen to recruiters who instruct them to go abroad as tourists and will later be given a tourist visa. This is a clear red flag, De Vega added.
"Mga kababayan ‘no, nandito po kami para mapauwi iyong ating mga Pilipinong biktima dito. Pero kailangan din para hindi na dumami pa ‘no, huwag magpaloko sa mga recruiters ‘no (To our fellowmen, we are here to help Filipino victims to go back home. But in order for this not to be replicated, do not fall prey to recruiters)," the official said in a television interview on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
He disclosed that there are between 50 to 70 Filipinos who have been brought to Myanmar using the same scheme. Many of them have been brought home.
De Vega, however, believes that there are still some Filipinos who are yet to be reached by the Philippine government, prompting him to ask their families in the Philippines to report to them to find their kin.
"Kasi natural, ang hirap ikontak sila dahil tinatago ng amo iyong cellphone minsan, or—na pinaparusahan sila kung alam ng amo na sinusubukan nilang umalis (Naturally, it's hard to contact them because their cellphones are being kept by their employers or they are being punished if they try to leave)," De Vega said.
"So mahirap ito (this is tough), this is a huge problem. Mabuti naman hindi pa naman libu-libo ang naging biktima niyan; pero inaasahan natin na hihinto na ito ‘no (Good thing this does not involve thousand of victims, but we are hoping this would finally stop)," he added.
The undersecretary said recruiters are now switching to getting Filipinos who are already abroad like those in Dubai.