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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article said there were 128 people rescued. This has been corrected.
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – A human trafficking syndicate drugged its victims, including children, to make them endure poor living and working conditions on an island in Pangutaran town, Sulu province, the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao said on Thursday, September 21.
Authorities learned about this when they rescued 123 people, including 22 minors, on Tubalubac Island on Tuesday, September 19.
Of the 22 minors rescued, eight were females, and 14 were males.
Police said the victims came from Leyte, Ormoc City, Samar, and Zamboanga City.
Lieutenant Colonel Dominador Mauricio, commander of the police’s 7th Special Action Battalion, said the 106 adults were composed of 97 males and nine females.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Sulu confiscated around 10 grams of suspected shabu inside the house of the primary suspect.
Police Captain Afghanni Montud said the suspected shabu was estimated to be worth P68,000.
During the police investigation, it was revealed that the victims had been subjected to manual labor, and some were made to use shabu “to endure their work conditions,” said Lieutenant Senior Grade Chester Ross Cabaltera, Naval Forces-Western Mindanao Public Affairs officer.
Aside from suspected shabu, authorities found explosive-making materials, rifles, and hundreds of rounds of assorted ammunition.
All recovered items were turned over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Sulu.
Authorities speculated that the victims were about to be taken to Malaysia.
Authorities made no arrests, and they were unable to fully identify any suspect.
They said members of the group fled the island, apparently because they learned that law enforcement was coming.
Authorities merely identified the group’s leader as a certain Jammang, who is now wanted for violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
Naval Forces-Western Mindanao chief Rear Admiral Donn Anthony Miraflor said the operation involved the Navy, police, other law enforcement agencies, and several offices of the Bangsamoro regional government.
He said they would sustain the campaign against human trafficking activities in the Western Mindanao region. – Rappler.com