Traffickers set sights on storm victims


DAVAO CITY—Human trafficking syndicates are hunting for victims in areas ravaged by Typhoon “Pablo,” prompting nongovernment groups and authorities to be on high alert.

Inorisa Elento, executive director of the Mindanao Migrants for Empowering Action, said the syndicates had lured victims by paying their families off. For at least P2,000, some families agreed to give children or relatives away.

Hans Leo Cacdac, regional head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Southern Mindanao, said the POEA has stepped up an information campaign against illegal recruiters.

“One of the first things to take note of to find out whether a recruitment agency is legal or illegal is where they recruit,” Cacdac said.

A few weeks after Pablo slammed into Southern Mindanao and parts of Caraga in December, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman warned against traffickers.

According to Cacdac, one sign that points to illegal recruitment activities is a sudden rise in the number of people applying for police clearances in areas hit by disaster.

Elento said traffickers had sent agents to areas devastated by Pablo. She cited the recent rescue of three girls who were being brought out of Boston town in Davao Oriental, which was hit hard by the storm.

The girls—aged 15, 17 and 19—were being led to a foreign destination when the municipal social welfare officer in Boston was able to get in touch with them, she said.

“They were recruited at the height of Pablo relief operations. Fortunately, they were intercepted by the social worker,” Elento said.

She said it was a clear case of human trafficking. “How can you recruit 15 and 17 year olds for overseas jobs?” Ayan Mellejor and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao

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