Senate eyes probe into private plane allegedly being used for human trafficking

Senators on Wednesday, February 15, called for an in-depth probe into the latest incident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) involving a private aircraft allegedly being used for human trafficking.

Lawmakers made the call after Sen. Grace Poe delivered a privilege speech exposing how the Philippine National Police (PNP) Aviation Security Group (ASG) received an anonymous tip on a human trafficking activity involving an aircraft with tail number N9527E that is set to depart at about 10 p.m. on Monday, February 13 at NAIA going to Dubai.

After the said scheduled flight was confirmed, the anonymous information noted that only six passengers have been declared to be on board the flight, but a total of 14 passengers actually boarded the aircraft.

According to Poe, the said aircraft was reportedly operated by one Cloud Nine No. 1 Leasing Company Ltd., a HongKong registered leasing company, and their assigned aircraft ground handler is a local company called Globan Aviation Service Corporation or GLOBAN.

After the PNP-ASG briefed the aircraft inspectors of a possible interdiction operation and told them not to sign any documents to clear their departure, the aviation police immediately proceeded to the Balagbag Ramp where the said aircraft was stationed for departure. They immediately informed the GLOBAN representative they will inspect the plane and the passengers first before signing the Safety and Security Flight Coordination sheet.

At 9:15 p.m. three foreign national crew onboard GLOBAN vans and three Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers and six more foreign nationals arrived in the area. They were escorted by the Airport Police Department patrol vehicle.

“Mr. President, we were able to secure a copy of this flight's General Declaration and it states that only three crew and six passengers should be on the plane. But based on the information we got from the Bureau of Immigration, there are seven (7) passengers stated in their General Declaration – one Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Vanuatu and three from Saint Kitts and Nevis. We were also told that the visas they hold are a mix of tourist, employment and Special Resident Retiree's Visa (SRRV),” Poe said in her speech.

“Around 10:20 pm, two vans arrived carrying not one, but eight (8) Asian looking nationals. Mr. President, these individuals were not included in the general declaration but they attempted to board the aircraft –attempted because they were stunned when they saw one of the aircraft inspectors taking a video. However, at around the same time, the inspectors noticed three (3) unauthorized individuals entering the aircraft followed by the aircraft door closing,” she pointed out.

At this, the aircraft inspectors immediately ordered the GLOBAN handler to stop the departure of the plane. The PNP-ASG immediately went up to the ramp and questioned the immigration officers, but the immigration officer claimed the additional passengers were already given a clearance to travel even though their names were not in the flight manifest.

The PNP-ASG called the control tower to hold the departure of the aircraft, but were told it is not possible because their flight navigation clearance was already approved.

“Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened. In December 2022, some Chinese nationals also boarded a private aircraft and the plane left without pre-flight inspection clearance. It was reported to the MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) but no action was taken,” Poe recalled.

“It is clear that there is irregularity and violation of the existing policies and procedures of airport agencies such as MIAA, Immigration, PNP Aviation, and CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines),”

“First, there is no pre-flight inspection clearance required prior to the departure of any international flight. Second, there are individuals who entered the Security Restricted Area after going through the correct security screening procedure and documentation. It is also not clear if their luggage also went through the said process,” she pointed out.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri condemned the act and called for an investigation into the corrupt government officials involved in the incident whom he said were apparently “blinded by money.”

“The Senate, through the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, should expose and punish them,” Zubiri said after Poe’s speech.

“The Senate could order their arrest if they refuse to head Senate summons,” the Senate leader added.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa also expressed his disgust on the incident. He also offered to investigate the human trafficking incident.

“They violate all protocols and laws just to give VIP treatment to these people. What a disgusting incident! I move that you refer this privilege speech to my committee,” said Dela Rosa wo chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

On the other hand, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she wants to know whether the assigned aircraft ground handler, Globan Aviation Service Corp., is the same firm that was involved in the foiled flight of Pharmally executives Mohit and Twinkle Dargani, who were involved in the alleged overpriced Covid-19 supplies, in Davao City in November 2021.

Poe confirmed that the local company’s name is Globan.

“I want to put it on record that it is Globan, with an N. Unless there are two Globans then we assume it's the same company and maybe we should check if that Globan is really in the business of smuggling people out of the country,” Poe pointed out.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment backed a Senate probe into “yet another human trafficking” activity at the NAIA, also supporting that the Dela Rosa’s offer to lead the investigation.

“I think heads will roll. I know Sen. Bato very well. He is very capable of investigating this particular problem and we have a saying: let the axe fall where it may,” Estrada said.