2 human traffickers fall, 11 victims rescued

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/28 September) – The Sea-Base Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF) have arrested two human trafficking suspects and rescued 11 victims in this city, police officials disclosed Wednesday.

Supt. Celso Bael, head of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime’s (PCTC) Western Mindanao field office, said the suspects were arrested Monday at a private wharf in Barangay Baliwasan, west of this city.

Bael said the 11 victims who were rescued when the suspects were arrested are from the municipalities of Ramon Magsaysay and Salug, Zamboanga del Norte province.

Bael said the arrest of the suspects and rescue of the victims came after authorities received information about the presence of a group of people who are about to depart for Malaysia through Tawi-tawi, the country’s southernmost province.

The private wharf in Barangay Baliwasan also serves as docking area of wooden-hulled vessels transporting cargoes from this city to the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and vice-versa aside from being the unloading port of fishing boats.

Lately, authorities have kept watch on the Baliwasan private wharf after they discovered an attempt to slip out victims of human trafficking through the area since security had been tight at the port of Zamboanga manned by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Bael said the victims revealed during investigation that they were hired to work at an oil palm plantation and at a factory in Sabah, Malaysia.

The two suspects, a man and a woman whose identities were withheld, were detained at the Zamboanga City police headquarters, Bael said.

Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police director, lamented they are now confronting a problem in the filing of criminal case against the two suspects – no one among the 11 rescued victims are willing to pursue the case.

De Ocampo said the victims are in the custody of the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), a non-government organization (NGO) working in issues of domestic work, child labor and human trafficking, especially of women and children.

The suspects will be released if and when the 36 hours reglementary period of detention will lapse, De Ocampo said. (MindaNews)