Hontiveros calls on the DFA to address fake passports used in human trafficking

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 4, 2021   •   407

MANILA, Philippines—Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to take actions against fake passports being used in human trafficking.

During a Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday (May 4), Hontiveros said the DFA should look into illegal schemes and enterprises that tamper with or forge passports, including a modus called “baklas passport.” Under the said scheme, the trafficked individual assumes the passport details of another person.

Hontiveros revealed three accounts of Filipino Muslim girls who were victims of human trafficking. They were identified as Omaima, Aleah, and Lenlen (not her real name). During the hearing, the women attested that their passports were fabricated to hide the fact that they were underaged.

“Our witness, Lenlen, went to the DFA in Cotabato to get her biometric passport in 2018. Why then did the DFA give her a fake passport?” the senator said.

One of the Filipino Muslim girls who were trafficked to Syria as minors also said that her passport was ‘baklas’ or fake.

The senator asked if there was a government official colluding with human trafficking criminals. She also called on the Foreign Affairs Department to conduct an investigation on its officials from across the country who may be facilitating the production of fake passports.

Another survivor of human trafficking in Syria said she was recruited when she was 14 years old. She said she was also a victim of verbal sexual harassment by an employee of the Philippine Embassy in Syria.

“I call on the DFA to regularly check the welfare of our women and girls abroad. We would not have known of this case, had Lenlen kept this story to herself. The DFA should be proactive in protecting our women,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, pastillas scheme whistle blower Alex Chiong confirmed that corrupt Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers have a Viber group chat that displays the list of names of women to be trafficked out of the country. The list may include underage girls with fraudulent passports.

According to the BI, the immigration officer who stamped the passport of 2018 survivor Lenlen in the list of individuals, is being investigated by the agency for being part of outbound human trafficking activities.

“If we find that this is syndicated trafficking, or trafficking committed by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with each other, the prescription period is 20 years.  Let’s all help finally resolve this revolting issue. Let’s do all we can for our children,” Hontiveros said. AAC

DFA temporarily closes NCR West consular office as 7 staff contract COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   September 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advises the public that the operations of its consular office (CO) located at SM City in Manila are temporarily suspended from Monday to Tuesday (September 20-21).

This, after seven staff of DFA CO NCR-West contracted COVID-19, while others have been identified as close contacts.

The consular office has been temporarily closed for thorough disinfection of its premises and to comply with the isolation and quarantine guidelines imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Health (DOH).

“Affected applicants for this period will receive an email providing them the details of their alternative passport appointment,” the advisory said.

For further updates, CO NCR-West can be reached by phone through the following numbers: (02) 8536-9995 and 0920-503-7256, or via the following email addresses:

* Email: ncrwest.so@dfa.gov.ph, dfancrwest@gmail.com
* For Passport Processing Concerns: dfancrwest.passport@gmail.com
* For Authentication Processing Concerns: dfancrwest.authentication@gmail.com
* For Passport/Apostille Releasing Concerns: dfancrwest.releasing@gmail.com

The department urges applicants to only refer to the official DFA platforms for announcements and updates.

DFA temporarily closes consular offices in Santiago, Tagum

Maris Federez   •   September 13, 2021

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has suspended the operations of its consular offices (CO) in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, and in Santiago City, Isabela from 10-14 September 2021 and 13-17 September 2021, respectively.

In a statement, the DFA said the personnel in the said consular offices have been infected with COVID-19 and other personnel has been identified as close contacts.

“As such, the COs have temporarily suspended operations to conduct thorough disinfection of its premises and to comply with the isolation and quarantine guidelines imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Diseases,” the statement said.

Affected applicants in CO Santiago with supposed appointments from 13-17 September 2021 will receive an email providing them the details of their alternative passport appointment.

Meanwhile, affected applicants in CO Tagum with supposed appointments from 10-14 September 2021 will be given new schedules from 15-24 September 2021.

The advisory added that applicants that require emergency or urgent consular services may contact CO Tagum by email (tagum.co@dfa.gov.ph / dfatagumconcerns@gmail.com /) or via landline (084 216 – 9846).

The CO Tagum will resume its regular operations on Wednesday, 15 September 2021, the statement further read.

The DFA said that it requested the public’s continued understanding as the department adheres to the prescribed measures against the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of personnel and applicants.

Likewise, the Department urges applicants to ONLY refer to the official DFA platforms for announcements and updates.

DFA records 130 new COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos

Maris Federez   •   September 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported a total of 130 new COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos over the previous week, bringing the total number of cases to 23,036.

The DFA also recorded 287 new recoveries, pushing the total recoveries to 13,215, and seven new fatalities bringing the total death toll to 1,376.

Infected overseas Filipinos undergoing treatment is at 8,445.

Compared to last week’s figures, the DFA said, the total number of recoveries increased by 2.22%. Europe was the only region that did not record new cases this past week.

Meanwhile, the number of countries and territories with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Filipinos abroad has now reached 103, following reports from the Middle East, and the Asia and the Pacific regions.

The DFA, together with its Foreign Service Posts, said that it continues to monitor and assist Filipinos abroad amid the pandemic.

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