ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/15 June) – The Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATTF) scored anew in its campaign against human trafficking with the rescue Monday of 54 victims in this southern port city.
Senior Supt. Mario Rariza, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-9 (CIDG-9) chief said Wednesday the victims were about to depart from this city aboard a commercial wooden-hulled vessel when rescued Monday night at a private wharf in Barangay Recodo, 15 kilometers west of this city.
The CIDG-9 is a member of the ZSBATTF, an inter-agency task force working against human trafficking.
Rariza said the vessel, M/V Wendelyn, was about to sail to Taganak Island, which is part of the municipality known as the Turtle Island Group.
The Turtle Island Group is right on the edge of Philippine territorial waters separating the country and Malaysia.
From Taganak Island, they were set to travel to Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia, where they will work as domestic helpers and other skilled jobs.
Rariza disclosed the task force learned about the trip after the Zamboanga City Coast Guard Station, also a member of the ZSBATTF, received information that 54 people would be boarding a wooden-hulled vessel going to Taganak Island.
The victims, who are now under the care of Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), did not carry any travel documents.
The VFF is a non-profit, non-stock non-government organization that attends to issues of domestic work, child labor and human trafficking especially of women and children.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office has already sent home 47 of the 67 human trafficking victims to their respective provinces.
DSWD official Ma. Socorro Rojas said that most of the 47 victims are from the provinces of Benguet, Isabela, La Union and Pangasinan, all in Luzon. The rest are from the provinces of Mindoro and Sultan Kudarat.
She said 42 of the 67 victims, who are mostly women, were rescued earlier this month at the port of Bongao town, the capital of Tawi-Tawi province.
The 25 others were rescued last week at a warehouse in Barangay Rio Hondo, this city, she said.
Investigation showed that the victims were offered jobs as domestic helpers even without proper documents.
They were also promised jobs in Singapore, Brunei, and even as far away as Jordan in the Middle East. (MindaNews)