Some 98 families or 119 individuals from Central Visayas were rescued by authorities from a sham job offered to them at Tubba Lubok Island in Barangay Aluh Bunah in Pangutan, Sulu.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas reported that they all arrived safely at Pier 4 on Monday.
“They were promised with a certain work. This is an alleged human trafficking sa mga fishermen,” said DSWD 7 Regional Director Shalaine Lucero.
She narrated that they were victims of labor trafficking, involved in a loaning scheme for the so-called work, but were in debt instead.
They also found out that the promised fishermen did not have any job when they arrived.
“They were deprived of the opportunity to fish. Para silang na-hostage. Wala silang work na tarong (maayos). Because of that working condition, nag-eskapo sila at umabot sila sa BARMM,” added Lucero.
They arrived at the capital of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on September 19 and were coordinated with to be brought back to their homes in Central Visayas.
There were 9 women in the group and 17 children out of the 131 victims.
Only 119 proceeded to Cebu City for proper booking before proceeding to their homes such as Cebu province, Bohol and Samar. 113 belonged to the jurisdiction of DSWD 7.
The rest stayed in Sulu and Zamboanga.
DSWD gave P10,000 each per family or equivalent to P980,000.
Lucero said that law enforcement agencies are now on top of investigating the matter such as looking for the mastermind of the trafficking incident.
They are also going to find out if they were physically abused and maltreated, as some of the victim’s accounts said.
It is also possible that there are still more to be rescued.
“Since it is a rescue, there are still some left,” Lucero explained.
As of now, the victims are now back in their homes but DSWD personnel will continue to monitor their progress and conduct psycho-social intervention.
- report from Annie Perez