15 human trafficking victims rescued in Tawi-tawi

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/25 May) – Combined government forces have rescued 15 human trafficking victims in two separate operations in the province of Tawi-tawi, officials disclosed Friday.

Eight of the 15 were rescued on Wednesday while the remaining seven, including one minor, were rescued on Thursday, according to Tawi-tawi police director Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson.

He said the victims, all female, were rescued while they were about to be transported out of the country, most likely to nearby Malaysia, from the capital municipality of Bongao in Tawi-tawi.

He said the victims were turned over to the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), a non-stock, non-profit organization that works for the protection of vulnerable migrants, including victims of human trafficking, forced labor, and other modern-day forms of slavery.

Ailyn Repadas, a VFF staff, disclosed that some of the victims are from Zamboanga City and nearby provinces in the region. There were also some from the Visayas and Luzon.

Jocson said the victims were rescued by the combined forces of the Tawi-tawi Police Provincial Anti-Trafficking Task Group (PATTG) and the Bongao Inter-Agency Task Forces Against Trafficking (BIATFAT).

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who sits as the chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), lauded the successful rescue operations. In a statement Friday, Binay said the latest string of operations showed “the government’s commitment to curb human trafficking in the country.”

Binay said human trafficking syndicates were using the Bongao seaport to “facilitate the transportation of the victims” to foreign destinations.

The rescue of the 15 victims has brought to a total of 59 victims of human trafficking rescued in a week’s time.

Last May 19, the police rescued 44 victims – 27 minors and 17 adults – of human trafficking and arrested the alleged recruiter at a hotel in this city.

The victims are residents of barangays Makiri and Timpul in Isabela City.

As he was recruiting the victims, suspect Khaiser Alih of Isabela City reportedly promised the minors scholarship grants from the National Youth Commission (NYC). The adults were promised jobs at the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Senate.

Chief Supt. Mario Yanga, Zamboanga police officer-in-charge, said the cases of illegal recruitment, child abuse and large scale estafa were filed against the suspect. (MindaNews)

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