Twenty-nine Filipina human trafficking victims were rescued from two bars in Bintulu in Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Wednesday.
According to the embassy, the rescued women were brought to Sarawak as tourists and promised jobs by converting their social visit passes to work visas in exchange for money — the usual MO of human traffickers.
"Under Malaysian immigration law, social visit passes (tourist visas) cannot be converted to work visas," the embassy said in a statement.
The women were rescued from Republic and Kiss Kiss Discovery pubs on June 9 after embassy officials received reports of trafficked Filipinas in the area.
Following the tip, the officials visited Sarawak and coordinated with the Bintulu Royal Malaysian Police, which raided the two pubs. Three Filipinos serving as agents and caretakers of the girls were arrested.
"We thank the Bintulu branch of the Royal Malaysian Police for their swift action to provide assistance and rescue of the trafficked Filipinas," said Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya.
The embassy said the rescue operation was made possible through the coordination of Embassy Police Attache Pablo Labra II and Assistance to Nationals (ATN) officer Ariel Esparto with Sarawak authorities.
Investigation is now ongoing and the women are to be transferred to the Women’s Shelter Home in Kota Kinabalu after the court’s approval of its application for temporary protection.
The embassy reminds Filipinos to be vigilant and not to deal with unlicensed individuals or purported placement agencies, especially online as they could end up being trafficked.
Filipinos seeking jobs abroad are urged to verify the job offer and the agency offering the job with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or the Embassy’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office before making travel plans.
"Proper employment visas from by the Malaysian Embassy in Manila and work permits approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency in Manila are needed by any Filipino entering Malaysia for work," the embassy said. —KBK, GMA News