Task force rescues 132 human trafficking victims in Zambo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/04 July) – The multi-agency Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF) rescued in separate operations Wednesday 132 human trafficking victims and arrested a suspected illegal recruiter in this city, officials said.

Chief Insp. Alexander Lorenzo, head of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime in Western Mindanao, said that 59 of the 132 victims were rescued at around 6:30 a.m. at a private wharf in Barangay Baliwasan.

A suspected illegal recruiter, whose identity was withheld by Lorenzo except for saying that he is from Ozamis City, was arrested when the victims were rescued.

Lorenzo said they composed of 31 men, 17 women and 11 children, who were recruited in the Davao Region and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The victims were recruited to work in palm oil plantations, house helpers and others, Lorenzo said.

He said the victims were rescued aboard a wooden-hulled ferry that was set to leave for Taganak, Turtle Island municipality, Tawi-tawi and then to Sandakan, Sabah.

The other 73 victims were rescued aboard two passenger vessels at around 7 p.m. Wednesday at the port of Zamboanga, according to Zamboanga Coast Guard Station commander Lt. Senior Grade Jomark Angue.

The vessels were set to depart for Bongao and Sitangkai municipalities in Tawi-tawi.

They were hired in Bohol and Cebu to work as deep-sea fishermen and dried fish workers in Tawi-tawi, unlike those rescued ahead of them, Angue said.

He said the task force had been watching on people traveling to Tawi-tawi to work as deep-sea fishermen since they ended up maltreated and underpaid based on complaints received by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The DSWD is among the government agencies that comprise the SBATTF.

All of the rescued victims are in the custody of the DSWD in this city. (MindaNews)