Youths turned 'slaves' in Dumaguete

by Carine Asutilla, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas

Posted at Nov 28 2011 11:30 PM | Updated as of Nov 29 2011 07:30 AM

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines - Slavery, physical injuries, and other charges have been filed against a Filipina and her Norwegian husband in Dumaguete City, police said.

Sheila and Regan Alfanta are accused of allegedly torturing 4 of their house helpers for 4 months.

The case was filed at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Dumaguete City Monday, after the house helpers were rescued by officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the police last Thursday and Friday.

Roel Austero was the first one rescued. A friend of Austero, who recently worked for the couple, saw Austero's condition and later informed authorities about it. This resulted in the rescue operation.

After being rescued, Austero showed authorities wounds in almost all parts of his body.

He said he was shot, beaten with a baseball bat, had boiling water poured on him, and was forced to eat raw food.

"If I cannot get the house very clean or if they do not like how I do my job, both of them would torture me. Sometimes they use syringe to stab me, an empty tin can to scratch my skin," Austero said.

After Austero was rescued, he asked authorities to also help 3 other house helpers who were also allegedly physically abused.

In another rescue operation launched the following day, authorities found 3 17-year-old girls at an upland village in Siaton, Negros Oriental.

One of the victims said they were made to eat food meant for chickens and the couple would sometimes starve them.

"If we miss some of the chores they wanted us to do, they would [use] flat irons on us or push us to the floor and beat us up with anything they have in their hands," the victim said.

They said they have not received their salary for 2 months after 4 months of working for the Alfanta couple.

"If one of us commits mistake at work, we all get punished. They would strangle us, try to pull out our eyeballs, and leave us out in the garage," one of the victims added.

They also said they have attempted to escape, but the gates of the area where they were held were too high.

The doors were always padlocked. They were also allegedly threatened with guns.

The parents of the children were unaware of their condition. They were surprised when the DSWD informed them about the rescue operation.

"I regret that I ever let my daughter work. It is just that I cannot afford to give her anything she wants, so I allowed her to work. My daughter wanted to earn so she can buy all the things she wanted," one of mothers said.

The victims are now under the custody of DSWD.

Police and the CHR are monitoring the couple, who have left their home after the rescue operation.