by Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star), 7 Jun 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Some of the 303 members of the Badjao tribe who were rescued in Manila last Friday may have been meant by a human trafficking syndicate to work as laborers, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) said yesterday.
Nadine Bernardino, IACAT administrative officer, said they have not yet completed interviewing the 303 Badjaos.
The most common answer given by the Badjaos “was that they would be visiting relatives in Manila, but in reality they would not be visiting relatives,” she said.
Bernardino said the police Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) “suspects that they were brought to Manila by a syndicate for manual labor, just like the Badjaos who are seen begging for alms on the street.”
Of the 303 Badjaos, of whom 263 have been interviewed by social workers and the police, 156 are adults and 107 are minors.
These victims of human trafficking were turned over to a temporary shelter in Quezon City under the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program of the National Housing Authority.
They were scheduled to be sent home to Zamboanga yesterday on board a Philippine Navy vessel.
The WCPC Mindanao Field Unit received information that members of the Badjao tribe were previously scheduled to be transported to Manila either by plane or ship.
These travels were reportedly facilitated or sponsored by an individual whose identity has been withheld.