Underwear yields illegal travel papers

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has intercepted two Filipino women who concealed their working visas and plane tickets in their underwear in an attempt to fly out to Lebanon despite a deployment ban to that country.

Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said the mere act of hiding their visas was proof that they were victims of human trafficking.

"If you hide your visa, it proves that you are a victim of human trafficking and we will not allow you to leave," he said.

The bureau withheld the names of the two women as Republic Act No. 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, prohibits the disclosure of the names of human traffickers and their victims.

According to David, the two women were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight for Bangkok 12 days ago when they were stopped by the bureau's travel control and enforcement unit.

The women initially denied they were going to work abroad but later admitted to officials that their final destination was Beirut, where they said there were jobs waiting for them.

The government has yet to lift a deployment ban it imposed on Lebanon for the latter's failure to comply with RA 10022, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995. Lebanon has been tagged an "unsafe country" for deployment under the law.

The total ban on the deployment of domestic workers to Lebanon was imposed in July 2007 in the midst of a violent confrontation between Lebanon and Israel.

About 35,000 Filipinos were estimated to have been in the Middle East country then.

However, the number has since jumped to some 50,000 with the continuing entry of undocumented Filipino workers.

The two Filipino women revealed they concealed their work visas and plane tickets to Lebanon in their underwear.

They identified their Lebanese employer as Fadi Antoine Abou Khalil, whom they claimed applied for their visas.

The case is being investigated by the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (Iacat), and those responsible for trafficking the two women would be arrested and prosecuted, said lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI acting intelligence chief.

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