SUAL, Pangasinan -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Ilocos, assisted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Dagupan City and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) regional office, has rescued some 22 fish cage feeders who were allegedly overworked and underpaid by their employers in this town.
In an interview Wednesday, April 17, social welfare officer Clarivel Banzuela of DSWD-Ilocos’s community-based services section, said the fish cage feeders were rescued along with three children and an infant.
Banzuela said the operation was conducted after they received a notice from the social welfare office of Kibawe town in Bukidnon about some workers from Northern Mindanao who are asking to be allowed to go home due to their unjust situation in this town.
“Two weeks ago, one worker here escaped and wrote a letter to the social welfare office of Kibawe, telling the ordeal the workers go through, which they relayed to us. However, the names subject to our rescue are no longer here as they have already fled on April 8. But, when we arrived at the place, these people (came) to us and shared the same sentiment,” she said.
The workers, Banzuela said, complained of hard labor but not enough compensation.
“They were allegedly promised P7,500 monthly salary with free housing and food. But on their first month, the employer deducted P2,500 for their fare from their province to Pangasinan. They thought, the deduction will just be on the first month but the employer continued to deduct the same amount in the following months,” she said.
Aside from Kibawe, Bukidnon, the other fish cage feeders were from San Fernando, also in Bukidnon; Samar; Leyte; Albay; Zamboanga del Sur; and General Santos in South Cotabato.
“They will be returning to their homes once the investigation is done, as the assistance of the DSWD for them to go home is all set. They will stay at the temporary shelter while the social workers assess their other needs. We are hoping that they can go home next week,” Banzuela said.
She addedthat the NBI and Dole are preparing the necessary charges against the workers’ employers.
“The three personnel of the companies, where the workers were rescued from, are on hold as we wait for the salary of the workers, which they have not yet received. These are the same employers of the previous rescued workers here, who faced charges. But unfortunately, (the case) was dismissed by the prosecutor due to technicalities. So now, we are careful and not rushing the process to avoid the previous situation from happening again,” Banzuela said. (PNA)