TACLOBAN CITY- ‘Eli (not his real name), 20 could only expressed his shock, and later anger, when he learned that the trafficking and child labor complaints filed against their Chinese and Taiwanese bosses were dismissed by a provincial prosecutor’s office in Pangasinan.
Eli was among the 32, four of them minors, residents of Barangay 96 of this city who were tricked to work in a fish farm in Sual, Pangasinan.
“Really? It was dismissed? Why? How? What will happen to us now? All we want is for us to be given justice,” Eli, who was visibly shocked, said.
He learned of the dismissal of the complaint when he was informed by Leyte Samar Daily Express.
‘Jerome’, 20, also expressed his dismay when he also learned about the dismissal by the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on July 25 on ground of technicality.
“All we want is justice. What will happen now to a case being readied by our officials here? But we hope that the dismissal will not affect our complaint here,” he said.
Eli said that he was encouraged to work at the said fish farm due to a good promise by their recruiter.
They were promised of P5,000 but only received P3,500 which is subject to deduction of P200 if they would not report for work; slept in barracks that look more like pig pens and given spoiled food.
They also worked as early as 5 in the morning until 10 pm hoarding fish foods to be used in feeding the fish, exposed to cruel heat of the sun and harsh rain.
“We were told that we will work in a Boracay-like beach. Of course, aside from the promised good pay, the mere mentioned of Boracay made us excited,” Eli said, referring to the world-famous island resort in Aklan province which is closed and undergoing rehabilitation as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Both Eli and Jerome said that just like the other trafficked victims from their village, they were determined to see their complaints going into full process and win it.
“By winning our case, these recruiters and these Chinese nationals will be stopped in continuing their unlawful practice against people like us who dream nothing but good and decent jobs,” Eli said.
Both said that they have already told their harrowing accounts by executing their affidavits before the city police which will be used in filing the complaint.
Carmela Bastes of the City Social and Development Office had earlier said that the affidavits executed by the trafficked victims are ‘solid evidence’ against the complaints of human trafficking, child abuse and child labor.
The group of men and minors left their village, one of the most depressed areas in the city, on July 11 and arrived in Sual the following day.
They left Tacloban City on board of two vans with markings of one of the country’s leading television networks and “Red Cross,” purportedly to evade any authorities while they were on their destination.
On July 19, the victims were rescued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Bureau of Investigation, both based in Pangasinan.
They returned back to their families on July 24 with the Pangasinan provincial prosecutor’s office dismissing the case of human trafficking and child labor on July 25.
It said that the rescue operation was said to be ‘tantamount to unreasonable search and seizure.’
Eli said that when the government personnel swooped at their premises, the Chinese and Taiwanese owners were not around and ‘hide.’
They don’t know the real names of their bosses as they only addressed them as ‘Boss Ayong’ and ‘Boss Aris.’
Eli said that it was ‘Boss Ayong’ who was harsh to them, cussing them with no reason at all.
Jocelyn Rosales, village chairwoman of Brgy. 96, said that because of the incident, she initiated information campaign in their area on trafficking with the help of Plan Philippines, a non-government organization.
“Most of our villagers here are really poor and could easily be encouraged to work outside Tacloban City with a promise good pay. That is why, we have now a massive information campaign here in the village against trafficking and they should inform us officials if there are somebody who are encouraging them to work outside the city,” Rosales said.