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THE days of illegal recruitment of Filipinos via Facebook and other social media platforms may soon be over, as incoming secretary of Department of Migrant Workers Susan “Toots” Ople vowed to go after them.

Recruitment agencies accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) have been complaining that Facebook, Tiktok and Twitter are being used as recruitment platforms of Filipinos by individuals or groups that have no POEA accreditation.

Asked how the new DMW can stop the proliferation of illegal recruitment through social media, Ople replied, “We will have to work with social media platforms because those are the ones being used now…. It is faster to take down FB pages that become havens for illegal recruitment. We will work closely with Facebook Philippines on that.”

Ople is an OFW advocate and head of the nonprofit organization Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute. She served as board of trustee of the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking that provides financial assistance to thousands of victims of human trafficking worldwide.

On Wednesday, she guested as resource person—as the first secretary of the DMW that is being set up under law enacted in the 18th Congress—at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club, a free-wheeling forum with panelists from the ALC Group, including BM, Philippines Graphic magazine, Pilipino Mirror, DWIZ and CNN Philippines.

She noted that there are Filipinos who share advertisements or announcements of job openings overseas on their Facebook or other social media accounts, not knowing that they are committing illegal recruitment. Thus, she stressed the need to clearly define “online illegal recruitment” and “online human trafficking.”

Minsan kasi akala ng isang Pilipino nakakatulong sya. Magpo-post sya ng mga trabaho dahil may kakilala syang agent, kunyari sa Dubai, di nya alam nagko-cross na sya ng line, illegal recruitment na ’yun. Pero sa tingin nya, tumutulong lang naman ako. Pero hindi eh, may batas tayo na dapat sundan [Sometimes, a Filipino would think he is being helpful, posting information because he knows an agent in, say, Dubai, but not knowing he has crossed the line to illegal recruitment. In his view, ’I’m just trying to help,’ but we have a law that must be followed],” Ople said.

She said she will form a task force against illegal recruitment and human trafficking and will work closely with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking. “We will use the laws of other countries to pursue human trafficking cases against foreign employers and foreign recruitment agencies who may be exploiting our OFWs,” Ople added. President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has also asked her to prioritize putting up a database of OFWs leaving the Philippines and arriving in the Philippines, as well as improving the blacklist of abusive employers.

She said she also met with Secretary-designate Ivan John Uy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and was assured they will help ease the OFWs’ burden in complying with documentation requirements such as the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), contract verification as well as online submission of documents by OFW’s employers from overseas.

“We are so excited about our future collaboration under DICT Secretary-designate Ivan Uy. We discussed at length how digital solutions can ease the problems/inconvenience being faced by our OFWs and how digital solutions can be used for training and capacity building even if they’re onsite,” Ople added.