Philippine authorities have arrested a Lebanese man and his Filipino wife, as well as two immigration officers, for allegedly sending young Filipino women to Sabah and Lebanon without proper documents.
In a statement, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said the simultaneous operations in Metro Manila, Bulacan and Mindanao last Monday led to the arrest of Lebanese national Pascal Sreih alias "Kuya Mario" and wife Vilma Rosa Matangay or "Sarah.,"
The two were accused of running a human trafficking operation with the help of some immigration officers.
Arrested with them were four others, including two immigration personnel identified as Joey Escobar and Fedel Mendoza.
The law enforcement operations were conducted simultaneously in Caloocan City, San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, and Zamboanga City — areas where the couple's illegal scheme was allegedly carried out, the PAOCC said.
The PAOCC said it placed Sreih "under close surveillance" as he was oft mentioned in most of the sworn statements of 10 female human trafficking victims rescued in Zamboanga City last May 28. Ten more victims were rescued last August 16.
According to victims rescued on Monday's operations, Sreih and Matangay recruited them as domestic workers for Lebanon. They were issued tourist visas, though Sreih demanded that they surrender their passports before they leave the country via a passenger cargo vessel from Zamboanga City en route to Sabah.
Initial investigation showed the recruits would fly to Zamboanga City, then taken to a hotel where they would wait for their travel documents.
They were instructed to buy two-way tickets to M/V Danica Joy 2, where they would wear pink pony tails on their wrist. It would be the sign for the immigration officer to stamp their passports.
The suspects have faced inquest proceedings for violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and large-scale illegal recruitment, the PAOCC said.
It added that the joint team is also looking into the possible involvement of other law enforcement agents, including at least two members of the Philippine National Police.
The said officers allegedly received money to mishandle criminal charges against Sreih and his group. —Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/KBK, GMA News