ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 21 Sept)—A total of 128 victims of human trafficking, including 9 women and 22 minors, were rescued by joint government forces in Sulu on Tuesday, reports said.
But forces from the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) admitted that the perpetrators “managed to escape” from Tubalubac Island in Pangutaran town in Sulu “due to early circulation of information.”
The 7th Special Action Force (SAF) Battalion under Lt. Col. Dominador Mauricio said in a press statement that the 128 victims included 8 girls and 14 boys.
The PNP’s Women and Children Protection Center reported that the victims were from Leyte, Samar, and Zamboanga City.
Lt. Senior Grade Chester Ross Cabaltera, public affairs officer of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NavForWM), said in a communique to defense media in Zamboanga City, said that the victims had been subjected to manual labor and were forced to take methamphetamine hydrochloride (more popularly known as “shabu”) “to endure their work conditions.”
But authorities have not mentioned yet what kind of work the victims were forced to undertake as they were still being interviewed.
The perpetrators were reportedly led by a certain “Jammang,” and are now wanted by law enforcers for violation of Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
Rear Admiral Donn Anthony Miraflor, NavForWM chief, said Naval Task Force-61, 1st Boat Attack Division, and naval intelligence operatives were involved in the joint efforts, along with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and the Ministry of Social Services and Development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Women and Children Protection Center – Mindanao Field Unit, PNP – Special Action Force and other law enforcement agencies.
The joint operation, he said, also resulted in the confiscation of nine suspected improvised non-electric blasting caps, four meters time fuse, an M1 Garand rifle, a Springfield rifle, an M14 rifle, an M16A1 rifle, 80 rounds of caliber .30 ammunition, 150 7.62mm ammunition, 300 5.56mm ammunition, six caliber .45 ammunition, three M14 steel magazines, 10 M1 Garand clips, and one caliber .45 steel magazine.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Sulu reportedly confiscated about 10 grams of suspected shabu inside Jammang’s house. Capt. Afghanni Montud, of the SAF Battalion, said in a phone interview that PDEA assessed this to have a street value of P68,000.
All the confiscated items were reportedly turned over to the custody of the Crime Investigation and Detective Group (CIDG) in Sulu for documentation and proper disposition. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)