13 abused Japanese kids going home next week

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 May) – Thirteen abused Japanese children rescued from the hands of three suspected traffickers on May 2 in Samal Island will return to Japan next week, an official of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in Davao Region said.

In an interview Wednesday, IACAT 11 regional secretariat Alma Acera said that the Bureau of Immigration is now processing the exit clearances of the 13 children, 10 of whom are males.

The male victims are staying at the City Social Welfare and Development Office of Samal and the females at the Department of Social Welfare and Development 11, she said.

Authorities rescued the victims at about 5:30 p.m. on May 2 in Purok Camotes, Barangay Toril, Babak District in Samal and arrested Hajime Kawauchi, 61, his son, Yuya Kawauchi, 35, and Lorena Mapagdalita, 56, the victims’ Filipina guardian.

Acera said the suspected traffickers previously stayed in Panacan before moving to Samal in October 2017, where they forced the victims into doing construction work for a building along with other workers.

She said the victims had no contact with their parents as the Kawauchis confiscated their mobile phones and laptops.

She said it was the Kawauchis who communicated with their parents, sending them pictures of the children doing martial arts sessions and construction activities as part of the supposed “training.”

The victims came here supposedly to learn English, martial arts, and character-building in the so-called “Davao Free School,” which they learned about from a TV commercial in Japan and social media, she said.

Convinced by the offer, she said some of the parents even brought their children here while the others travelled on their own.

“Pagka-hibalo sa mga bata, mga students sila (The children thought they were students),” she said.

She said some of the victims have already overstayed as their passports and visas have expired already.

She said some of the children have been staying in the country for one year and three months, some nine months, others six months, and another one just arrived last week.

Acera said four parents arrived last Sunday in the city and more are expected to arrive within the week to fetch their children.

But she said they require the parents to get a certification from the Japanese Consulate here to confirm their identities.

She said the parents paid the suspects P50,000 to P100,000 a month.

But Police Regional Office 11 spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz said that each victim only received P1,000 a month.

Driz said complaints for violation of Republic Act 10364 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act were filed against the suspects last Monday.

However, the complaint for violation of RA 7610 against the Filipina guardian was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence, she said.

Acera said the suspects maltreated the victims some of whom sustained bruises in the face and legs, had their noses deformed, and legs swollen due to beating with bamboo.

The children underwent medical checkup after being rescued, she added.

But she said the female victims complained of “malicious touching.”

She said they want the cooperation of the Japanese government in presenting the children during the trial to testify against the suspects.

She said they also want to hold a conference with the parents to explain to them the actions taken by the IACAT 11, including the charges against the suspects. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)