Joint team raids bar in Cebu

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Saturday, March 17, 2012


SHE got the job, which involved putting on heavy make-up and a skimpy dress, only two weeks ago.

She earns only P150 a day and commission on drinks that customers buy for her. But for sixteen-year-old Margaret (not her real name), the job at the Boss KTV and Bikini Bar on Sanciangko St., Cebu City, may have been better than serving food at a small eatery in the area.

But now, Margaret cannot go back to the bar to entertain customers. She was one of the 17 girls rescued by the Police Regional Office 7-Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF), International Justice Mission (IJM) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 during a raid at Boss last Thursday night.

Authorities also arrested the 50-year-old bar manager who allegedly prostituted the girls, among them Margaret and two other minors.

Edna Regudo of DSWD 7 said curiosity drove Margaret, a high school dropout, to work at the bar.

Senior Insp. Maria Theresa Macatangay, RAHTTF head, said in a phone interview that the age of the rescued girls ranged from 16 to 36.

Surveillance

Sun.Star is withholding the names of the girls to comply with Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

Before the raid was conducted at 11 p.m., RAHTTF conducted surveillance on the bar for three weeks, after an informant tipped them off that there were minors being prostituted in the bar.

Macatangay said two police officers went there and pretended to be customers. Inside the bar, the manager approached them and offered them girls for P3,500 each.

The manager told the undercover cops that they can bring the girls of their choice to any of the bar’s rooms, which were covered only by curtains.

After paying for the girls, the police officers signaled to their teammates, who rushed in and rescued the women.

Macatangay said they will charge the manager and the bar owner, whom the authorities identified through the business permit, with large-scale and minority human trafficking.

Most of the women at the bar, said Regudo, are single mothers, who came from Cebu City, Minglanilla, Davao and other parts of Cebu Province.

“They said they could not find a job and they are mostly high-school dropouts,” said Regudo in Cebuano.

The social worker said most of the women do not work every night at the bar.

If the adult women decided not stay with DSWD 7, they will have to sign a waiver with a promise they will not go back to working in bars.

As for Margaret, she said her parents are farmers and are unaware of the nature of her job in the city.

Regudo said DSWD will take custody of the girl and contact her family, which will be assessed if they are fit to raise the girl.

Margaret lived with her aunt in Cebu City, but she moved to a rented room on Sanciangko St., said Regudo.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 17, 2012.

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