Ople Center warns typhoon victims against international drug and human smuggling rings

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Susan “Toots” Ople was interviewed live via phone patch yesterday, October 21, 2009 over Radyo Natin Maramag – Ed.

Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople warned the public anew about international drug and human smuggling syndicates seeking to gain from people’s miseries in the aftermath of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” by citing bogus job offers to Malaysia, Maldives, Syria and Italy.

susan and blasThe head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization helping distressed OFWs, cited information on the recent arrest of two Filipinos caught smuggling drugs to Iran as well as the arrest of another pregnant Filipino woman caught with cocaine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“We call on the government to crack down on these syndicates that seek to exploit our people and gain from their miseries during these calamity-stricken times,” Ople stressed.

The youngest daughter of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople said the Department of Foreign Affairs is extremely concerned over the rising number of Filipinos being used as drug mules by international drug rings. “As of last count, there are 500 Filipinos detained in various jails around the world on drug smuggling cases,” she said, adding that based on data from the DFA, nearly 200 out of the 500 detained Filipinos were arrested in China.

“Filipinos caught with illegal contraband end up facing maximum penalties while the masterminds of these syndicates, mostly Nigerians and Zambians, are able to go underground because of their extensive underworld connections,” Ople explained.

Ople warned that illegal recruitment and human smuggling activities continue unabated with victims of “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” as the most likely targets. “We continue to receive information about bogus job offers to Malaysia, Maldives, Syria and Italy. In Naga City, for example, we met a victim of illegal recruitment who forked out P20,000 as processing fee for a non-existent job in Italy. The recruiter said that an Italian employer wanted to hire 1,000 Filipinos with or without experience but they needed to pay for the processing of visas which would be handled by a private foundation. Clearly, this is an outright hoax but there were people who fell for it.”

The Center also received information about continuous recruitment activities by human smuggling rings in Malaysia where victims are promised quick deployment on a salary deduction basis, but they end up as victims of forced labor and even prostitution abroad.

“We are issuing this warning so that our local officials can be on heightened alert and to prevent more Filipinos from falling victim to the diabolical undertakings of these international syndicates,” Ople said.

For those wishing to verify whether job offers abroad are legitimate or not, Ople said the applicants must always check with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (www.poea.gov.ph) or they can get in touch with the Ople Center via blasoplecenter@gmail.com or by calling up the Center’s hotline: 833-5337.

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