Four of them minors
BY: JOEY A. GABIETA/ROEL T. AMAZONA
TACLOBAN CITY- At least 32 men, four of them minors, from this city said to be victims of trafficking were rescued by authorities in Sual, Pangasinan province.
The trafficked victims were recruited to work in a big fish cage farm reportedly owned by Chinese nationals and were promised of a monthly compensation of P5,000.
But based on the accounts of the victims, they were told that they would only be paid P3,500, worked overtime under harsh condition and always being threatened.
“Yohan,’ 15, and from Barangay 96, said that he together with his companions were recruited by a neighbor identified as Eduard Moreno on July 11 of this year.
“I don’t really know him though we belong to the same village. He promised us that we will be paid P5,000 and with food allowance and with a decent living quarters,” the victim said.
But when they arrived in the area on July 13 after almost two days of land travel, they were shocked that their living quarters were just like pig pens; worked from 4 am until 10 pm every day of the week and with no rest allowed.
They were also provided with their daily food, placed in a plastic wrapper.
“We always ate fish and vegetables with foul-odor smell,” Yohan said.
About seven armed men were said to be monitoring them.
Yohan, who only finished Grade 4 whose parents have no stable employment, said that he was glad that his and his companions’ nightmarish ordeals are over.
“At least I am with my parents and younger sibling now. I will just continue my studies here with the help of our government,” he said.
The other victims were recruited by Moreno’s brother, Dick, who is based in Sual.
The plight of the victims were discovered when one of the mothers of the trafficked victims went to the office of the City Social Welfare and Development Office(CSWDO) complaining that her 15-year old boy has not contacted her since he left for Sual on July 11.
Carmela Bastes, social worker of the CSWDO, immediately informed their regional office in Tacloban City which, in turn, contacted their counterparts in Pangasinan on July 13.
And on July 19, with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation in Pangasinan, personnel from the DSWD-Pangasinan, went to the area and conducted their rescue operation.
The Chinese owners did not resist during the operation.
Claire Banzuela, social worker officer based in San Fernando, Pangasinan, said that their office provided food and clothing to the victims and were given P5,000 as assistance.
Banzuela, together with other staff of their office, escorted the trafficked victims to the city on July 24.
The NBI, she said, are to file cases of human trafficking against the Chinese nationals and the recruiters of the victims.
The city government of Tacloban initiated press conference on Thursday (July 26) with the victims as well as social welfare officers from Tacloban and Pangasinan in attendance.