DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – A 16-year-old kid is among the 52 fishermen repatriated from Indonesia who arrived here Tuesday morning.
Robert Gordo didn’t expect to be among the group of arrested fishermen when he hopped on a boat at the peak of summer.
Without his knowledge, that fishing boat, among the five that sailed together as a group, treaded in dangerous waters.
What he expected to be just a joy ride that would return to shore on the same day dragged on to two weeks. The men in the boats celebrated good catches: 29 tuna specimens that’s worth about P90,000.
It wasn’t until May 3—four days before the boats were supposed to travel back to Sarangani shores—that the nautical merriment came to a halt.
Gordo said that their boats crossed paths with the Indonesian coast guards and were eventually apprehended. They were made to transfer boats and were stripped naked for inspection.
On May 5, Gordo said that they were taken to a navy base in Bitung, Indonesia.
As they surrendered to authorities, they were subjected to various harassments. This included the confiscation of their catch and being fed fish that already had foul odor.
The young kid narrated that they were made to do push-ups and several cleaning tasks regularly when they were detained. Gordo said he witnessed how his friend was mauled because of a confiscated mobile phone.
Throughout this ordeal that he never expected to be involved in, Gordo confessed he was afraid that he might be hurt by the authorities.
He has not contacted his mother since he sailed with the fishermen in April.
The fishermen, when talking to the immigrations officers on their return to Mindanao, said that there was no person or any sort of agency that coerced them to sail in the Indonesian waters; they navigated their boats by themselves.
Most of the fishermen come from General Santos City.
Bonifacio Lumaad Jr., of the Department of Social Welfare and Development who was among the officials who met the repatriated fishermen, said that the DSWD will be giving assistance to them.
Aid for transportation so that the fishermen can return to their hometowns is on the list.
The fishermen will go through assessments so that DSWD will be able to identify their other needs.
Lumaad said that the department will need to know—through counseling—the fishermen’s testimonies; they after all went through working hazards in the sea and abuse.
There will also be group counseling for them to relieve trauma.
Educational assistance is also seen to be given to the minors involved in the group.