ARMM creates council against trafficking

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 10 Nov) – The newly-created ARMM Council Against Trafficking (ACAT) has enough powers to apprehend and prosecute those involved in illegal recruitment and other forms of trafficking, said a top executive from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

The ACAT was organized after a series of workshops and consultations with several stakeholders in the ARMM, according to Executive Secretary Anwar Malang.

The council was launched last Thursday in Tawi-Tawi, reports said.

The island of Tawi-Tawi, Malang noted, has become the “gateway” of many Filipinos, most of them from the ARMM, to Sabah, Malaysia.

“It’s so easy to (bring in) people from ARMM to Sabah, Malaysia using the island of Tawi-Tawi as gateway. No need for documentation, for passports… at a cheaper price. In just seven hours, you would reach Sabah, just like that,” said Malang.

He enthused that with ACAT, the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) and the attached agencies would become more proactive in the campaign against trafficking.

At least P2 million from the Special Purpose Funds of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman was allotted as initial funds for the council, Malang said.

The ARMM has created ACAT, aside from the Inter-Agency Committee against Trafficking (IACAT), because of the need to strengthen its campaign against trafficking.

“Based on the data, many of the trafficked persons come from the ARMM. Also, the illegal recruiters used as exit or backdoors some of the islands in the region, so it’s so easy for them to ferry their recruits to other countries in Asia,” noted Malang.

ACAT, he stressed, is under the Office of the Regional Governor where it can command all agencies in the ORG to work on the rehabilitation and integration of the trafficked persons back to their community and at the same time focus on the prosecution, using as basis Republic Act 9054 (the law expanding ARMM’s Organic Act) and other laws.

“Many of our kababayans are looking for greener pastures outside the ARMM. While it’s true that we can’t stop them, we want them oriented of their rights and responsibilities…. We can strengthen that through education and information drive the government would launch, through ACAT, in the coming days,” said the ARMM executive secretary.

Last week, 73 trafficked women, some of them minors, were rescued during a highway check in Agusan del Sur, reports said.

They were onboard four Town Ace vehicles from Cotabato City.

Many of those rescued were from the ARMM, particularly from Maguindanao, data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Maguindanao showed.

Of those rescued, 30 were from Maguindanao, 14 from Cotabato City, 12 from North Cotabato, and the rest from Sultan Kudarat and other parts of Southwestern Mindanao. Nine were minors, according to Barbara Guialil, staff from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Maguindanao.

Reports said the suspected illegal recruiter identified only in her alias as Nora, along with two of her staff, were arrested and charged with several counts of violation of Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. They remain in detention at the Agusan del Sur police station, reports added. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)