FROM a distance, they looked like pretty girls.
Inside a fast food joint along Gen. Maxilom Ave. in Cebu City, they appeared to be a group of young friends, just hanging out.
What’s not so obvious is that they’re cross-dressing boys, with long wigs, allegedly out to lure foreigners.
Eight of them, one as young as 14, were rescued by police in an operation against human trafficking before noon yesterday.
Two of their friends, who allegedly acted as pimps, were arrested. One was identified as Alfie “Kisha” Plando, 22, and the other, a 15-year-old boy who went by the name Marian. Both reside in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.
Senior Insp. Maria Theresa Macatangay of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) 7 said the seven rescued persons, six of whom are believed to be minors, were “sold” for sexual services, for P3,000 each.
The task force conducted the operation after getting a call about the allegedly rampant illegal activity in the area, which is littered with bars and known for its night life.
Macatangay said they monitored the suspected pimps for two weeks until they verified that the two were “selling” the boys, mostly to foreigners, for sex.
A police decoy and the alleged pimps negotiated until they agreed to meet inside a fast food joint past 11 a.m. yesterday, with the promise that the “girls” would be brought along.
When the suspects received the payment, they were surprised to be accosted by operatives of the RAHTTF 7. Their plans for a beach getaway were cut short.
The eight others were kept safe and brought to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7. They will undergo a dental aging test and orientation.
Macatangay urged the tourism industry, such as hotels and beach resorts, to help the police in their fight against human trafficking.
“We are hoping our partners in the community, most especially those in the tourism industry, will help us and promote a better-looking Cebu. Let us help our law enforcement units catch these kinds of criminals so that they will stop exploiting Cebuanas and Cebuanos who fall prey to unscrupulous and evil-minded perpetrators,” she said.
Casting, he says
In an interview, the two alleged pimps denied selling the boys, who are also from Barangay Labangon, for sex. They don’t go to school anymore.
“Apil gyud mi sa casting sa ipakuan atong mga foreigners. Gipatapok mi nila didto (We were part of the casting call for some foreigners. We were asked to gather there),” Plando said. Two men, he alleged, were the ones who arranged to meet in the fast food joint for a beach outing.
He said he only agreed to go to look after the underage boys.
“Nisugot ko kay kabaw ko ilang gipangdala kay minor. At least naa sila’y kuyog nga maguwang nila nga makatudlo kung unsay buhaton in case magkagubot (I agreed to go only because I knew they would bring minors. At least they’d have someone older who can teach them what to do in case of trouble),” Plando said.
He said they were told they were just going to have fun, get paid P2,000, and that no sex would be involved.
When asked if it was true that they frequent Gen. Maxilom Ave., Plando said they only visit the place to hang out. “Dili gyud mi ingon nga mangharbat pareha sa uban (We don’t do what the others do there),” he said.
The 15-year-old, who introduced himself as Marian, said he only did it to earn money and help his parents. He said he learned about it from his neighbors.
“Kahibaw man mi nga sayop. Sa akong gikaingon, gibugaw ra sad mi. Limpyo among konsensiya (We know this is wrong. But we are also the victims of pimps here. Our conscience is clean),” Plando said.
Complaints for violating Republic Act (RA) 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, as amended by RA 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, will be filed against them.
Since Gen. Maxilom Ave. is under his area of responsibility, Chief Insp. Wildemar Tiu of Police Station 2 said they are also keeping a close watch on the area.
They have coordinated with RAHTTF 7 on the problem.
Last Month, they arrested two transgender women who allegedly disrespected and spat at police officers when told to leave the area, after being overheard negotiating with a foreigner.