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Tacloban police rescue 5 minors from suspected traffickers

May 26, 2014 · 

POSTED ON 05/21/2014
MANILA, Philippines ­ Tacloban City police detained four people for allegedly trafficking young girls coming from families affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) just before Holy Week on April 2014.
A Tacloban City policewoman and an officer from the city’s Social Welfare and Development Office (SWDO) intercepted the five children, aged 10 to 15, onboard a bus in Barangay Abucay.
The children, who were from Marabut, Samar, were accompanied by four adults ­ including a woman in a nun’s habit ­ who claimed to be members of a non-governmental organization (NGO) doing aid work for Yolanda survivors.
The female police officer, who asked not to be identified due to her role in the ongoing investigation, then asked the children where they were going.
The girls said they were bound for Manila but could not give further details. This prompted the policewoman and social welfare officer Carmela Bastes to take in the girls and their adult companions for further questioning at the Tacloban City police station.
False promises’
Bastes and the policewoman learned that the four suspects had distributed relief goods in Marabut on April 9, where they met the five girls.
They promised the girls free high school and college scholarships in Metro Manila, as well as job opportunities abroad after their education, Bastes said.
The group also produced consent letters signed by the children’s parents allowing them to take the minors to Manila, but these were rejected by Bastes and the policewoman.
There should have been coordination from the barangay level. A social worker in Marabut should have a referral and a case study before allowing anyone to transport children to another place. They didn¹t have any of these documents, Bastes added.
The suspects are currently detained at the Tacloban City Jail while waiting for the result of police investigations in the alleged human trafficking case.
Anti-trafficking training
The policewoman credited the training she received from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners in helping her identify the human traffickers.
I don’t think I would be that prepared in dealing with the situation if I didn’t have the training, she said.
UNFPA has been working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in its campaign to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence in typhoon-affected areas.
To date, at least 38 female police officers in the Eastern Visayas have been trained to identify and process potential cases of human trafficking.
The five girls rescued are now under the custody of the Tacloban Women’s Shelter

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