17 human trafficking victims bound for Sabah are rescued
Published on: Wednesday, February 13, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Philippine Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies intercepted a motorboat loaded with 93 passengers en route to Taganak, Tawi-Tawi, Monday night, of which 17 were victims of human trafficking.

Zamboanga Coast Guard Station commander, Lt Cmdr. Jimmy Oliver Vingno, said the victims were promised decent and better paying jobs by their recruiters upon arriving in Sabah.

In most cases, victims of human trafficking end up as waitresses, domestic workers or bar girls and are matched with Chinese/Malaysian nationals (all married), who become their benefactors.

The victims also risk being arrested and jailed by the Malaysian authorities for illegal entry and other Immigration violations. Vingno said the victims were turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). 

He said the owner of the launch would be investigated for possible criminal violations.

Zamboanga City remains a hotspot for human trafficking in the Philippines, an enticing exit point for human traffickers to smuggle their victims out of the country because it has an international seaport in which ships traveling to and from Sandakan and Sabah, in Malaysia, dock.

There are also dozens of other privately owned ports in the city.

The city is also a favourite landing point for smuggled contraband items from Malaysia and other neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, a woman was found guilty of illegal recruitment and human trafficking by the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court 14 recently .

In a 12-page decision, Judge Reynerio Estacio found Arlene Ramos guilty of having been involved in the recruitment of two Zamboanga residents to work as house helps in Malaysia without pay.

The victims worked for nine months for separate employers without pay.

According to the victims, Ramos received money from their supposed employer when they were about to begin to work. The mother of one the victims filed an illegal recruitment case against Ramos on Aug. 15, 2005.

After more than a year, when the victims were able to return to Zamboanga, the prosecution filed a separate case for human trafficking against Ramos.

She was meted an eight-year prison term and fined P250,000. She will serve an additional 20 years in prison and a P1-million fine if she fails to pay the fine ordered by the court, as it would be converted to imprisonment days equivalent to P8 per day.

The Public Attorney’s Office in Zamboanga City plans to file an appeal. Zamboanga City prosecutor Atty. Darlene Pajarito said the court found the complete elements of human trafficking in the case.

One is the element of deception, wherein Ramos took advantage of the vulnerability of the victims, being poor and wanting to work abroad to get better pay and a decent job.

Pajarito believes that it is the first case of labor trafficking in the country in which the accused was convicted. There have been 38 cases of human trafficking with convictions in the Philippines. However, 37 of the cases involved sexual trafficking.  - Nikko Fabian



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