Cops check background of 2 trafficking suspects

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Monday, August 8, 2011


CEBU CITY -- The police will investigate if the two women who were arrested for suspected human trafficking are involved in a big-time syndicate.

“We will still have to check their backgrounds. It’s still an ongoing investigation,” City Intelligence Branch Chief Romeo Santander said.

He said they have been coordinating with other regions to verify if the suspects were involved in human trafficking cases.

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“Their profiles are still under validation as of now,” Santander said.

Today, the police will file complaints against the mother-and-daughter suspects before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 or Republic Act 9208.

The suspects, whose names are being withheld in compliance with the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, were arrested last Friday night in Pier 4, Cebu City for failing to show documents and allegedly arranging the travel of 15 girls.

Unlawful

Section 4 of RA 9208 says it is unlawful “to recruit, transport, transfer; harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of sexual exploitation, involuntary servitude or forced labor.”

The girls, most of them minors, were rescued by the elements of the 701st Maritime Police Station nearly two hours before they were scheduled to sail for Manila.

They were allegedly offered jobs in Manila as housemaids, waitresses and caretakers. The girls, who were all out-of-school youths, came from Getafe, Bohol.

Minors

In a related development, 12 out of the 15 girls were confirmed as minors, Senior Insp. Joselito Blazo of 701st Maritime Police Station said.

Because of the absence of the girls' birth certificates, a dentist from International Justice Mission (IJM) checked their teeth to verify their ages.

The rescue operation of the girls came after a security guard from a vessel reported to a police officer detailed at the area that he noticed the minors traveling in a group.

The girls, together with the suspects, were bound to leave for Manila at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Police seized the tickets from them, which cost P1,242 each.

Support

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Cebu is supporting efforts to curtail human trafficking.

Archbishop Jose Palma underscored, in an interview Sunday, that human trafficking is against the law and teachings of the Church as he also called on authorities to act swiftly on human trafficking cases.

The Catholic Church’s teachings include the promotion of the human dignity of persons exploited through trafficking and slavery and to support efforts to rescue victims as well as provide economic, educational, and formative services.

Exploitation

Human trafficking is the illegal trading of people, mostly women and children, to forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

"We are reminding people to be extra on guard to report (human trafficking cases)," he told reporters Sunday morning.

“On our front, we will be there to support all the efforts against human trafficking,” he added.

Palma was reacting to reports on the rescue of 15 girls from a suspected trafficking operation in Cebu City last Friday night.

Law enforcement personnel said the girls, aged between 14 and 17, were allegedly offered employment as housemaids, waitresses and caretakers in Manila.

“I hope that, labi na diri sa Cebu (especially here in Cebu), this should not happen and we will do our best that this thing will be avoided,” said Palma.

Destination

Some non-government organizations involved in the campaign against human trafficking points to Cebu province as a destination, source and transit area wherein women and children victims are brought to be transported to various parts of the country.

The penalty for qualified human trafficking or when the act is done against three or more persons, minors or by a syndicate, under Republic Act No. 9208 or Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, is life term imprisonment. (DSM/BAP/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 08, 2011.

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