CBCP urges probe on HK lending firm over 'passport collateral'

MANILA — The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI) on Thursday said that the lending firm in Hong Kong, which seized some 1,400 passports of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), should be probed.

CBCP-ECMI chairman Bishop Ruperto Santos noted that a probe should be conducted on the company, Overseas First Credit, for taking advantage of the needs of the Filipino workers there.

“The Overseas First Credit should be investigated, prosecuted. It is very sad story where with their precarious and dire needs our OFWs become victims of heartless and scrupulous persons,” he said in an interview.

“To have (passport) as collateral is blackmailing for very excessive interest rate,” Santos added.

At the same time, the CBCP-ECMI head urged the Philippine post in the Chinese territory to assist the OFWs in securing a new travel document.

“We appeal to our Consulate Office to help and assist our OFWs, especially for the procurement of new passport,” he said.

“As to avoid this inhumane act of loan shack, it is commendable to have a bank which will cater specifically to needs of our OFWs,” Santos added.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong police confiscated some 1,400 passports, which were supposedly used as collateral for loans of OFWs from the lending company.

The use of passport as collateral is not allowed under Foreign Service Circular No. 2014-99 of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). As a result of the illegal act, the document will also be invalidated.

To apply for a new passport, the OFWs have to submit an affidavit stating that their old passport was used as collateral for a loan.

They will also be included on the watchlist of the DFA. (PNA)

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