ARMM’s trafficked survivors get assistance, skills training

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 18 June) – At least 10 human trafficking survivors, mostly young women displaced during skirmishes in Maguindanao in 2013, have received livelihood assistance and training packages from Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD-ARMM) awarded livelihood assistance to 10 victim-survivors in Maguindanao during the celebration of People’s Day last Monday.

Farhana Gendeng, 17, a resident of Brgy. Glasi, Datu Piang town, was one of the survivors who received a cash incentive and training package. She could have been in the wrong hands and fallen to human abuses had she not been rescued by the Inter-Agency Task Force against Human Trafficking in Butuan City.

Social worker Barbara Guialel narrated how these young women were duped last year and convinced to work abroad, travelled in a jampacked public utility vehicle for days going to Butuan City and get their National Bureau of Investigation clearance from there despite the much nearer NBI office here.

But the spurious attempt of the traffickers were immediately detected, and a rescue operation ensued, resulting in the apprehension of two suspects now facing charges at a court in Butuan City on charges of human trafficking.

“The victims from Maguindanao were mostly young daughters of hopeless internally displaced persons (IDPs or bakwits) whose parents could not afford to send them to school. Their situation has made these young women vulnerable to trafficking vultures,” Guialel said.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, personally handed the P10,000 checks to each of the victim-survivors last Monday during People’s Day held in Cotabato City.

“They can use the amount they received to pursue higher education as well as in starting a small business,” she said.

For Farhana, she said she will use the money to start a small sari-sari store to help her and her family.

Alamia also referred the women to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-ARMM for skills development.

Rosalie Esturco, of TESDA-ARMM, said the agency is offering free vocational courses to the victims.

“We want to attend to the needs of these individuals. On our end, the first thing we can do is to get their profiles, know what trainings they need, and endorse them to our provincial training center,” Esturco said.

The intervention is part of the Recovery and Re-integration Program for Trafficked Persons, a national program of DSWD that provides adequate services to victims of human trafficking.

Based on data from the ARMM Council Against Trafficking (ACAT), there are 387 human trafficking victim-survivors in the autonomous region alone. In the Philippines, the Bongao town in Tawi-Tawi province was identified as the transit point wherein potential victims are often intercepted.

ACAT performs as the regional counterpart of the National Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking who monitors, oversees and coordinates programs and projects to prevent trafficking in persons from the region.