Thirteen people wearing identical T-shirts were intercepted by the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers in the Manila airport after they were flagged for presenting fake boarding passes for a trip to Hong Kong, the government agency announced yesterday.
“They were also allegedly told to wear T-shirts bearing the name of a herbal product during their trip and were instructed to take off the shirts after they are cleared by Immigration,” said BI Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) Chief Timotea Barizo in a statement.
The matching outfits have led BI officials to believe that the 13 Filipinos intercepted in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 last Monday were probably promised jobs abroad by illegal recruiters.
“It was done to make it seem like they were on an official company trip abroad. Why would they be instructed to misrepresent themselves if there was no ill intention?” Barizo said.
“There were too many inconsistencies in their statements and documents.”
The thirteen, comprised of seven men and six women, were discovered after presenting fake boarding passes at the Cathay Pacific counter.
The airline’s personnel found that the self-printed boarding passes were not actually part of the flight’s manifesto and that the passengers had not been issued tickets.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said that the 13 allegedly only found out that they had been scammed in the airport.
“It … seems that they are victims of … scammers who prey on the public by selling fake tickets at cheap prices to entice their victims,” Medina said.
While talking to the BI TCEU, some of the victims blamed one of their fellow passengers for allegedly luring them to buy the tickets. The unidentified woman denied this and alleged that the boarding passes came from a woman named Jennifer, whom she met three times and instructed her to distribute the tickets to the other passengers.
All 13 passengers have been turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance and further investigation, according to the BI statement.
Hong Kong remains to be a popular destination for Filipinos working abroad. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 6.3 percent of Overseas Filipino Workers in April to September last year were in Hong Kong, making it the destination with the third most number of OFWs.