Girl lured by texts rescued from slavery



ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – About a year ago, 12-year-old Connie (not her real name) was very excited as she set off for Pagadian City from Iligan City to meet a man whom she had been bragging to friends as her “soul mate.”

The man, farmer Reynaldo Esparcia, had been exchanging text messages with Connie and a friendship developed.

When Esparcia, now 27, invited Connie over to Pagadian City to meet, the girl did not hesitate to go.

So one day in August last year, she left home in Iligan City, took a bus and headed for Pagadian City, which is about 142 kilometers away.

After more than two hours of travel, Connie finally came face to face with Esparcia, who immediately brought her to Barangay Lower Sibatang in Pagadian City.

It would become her prison. Esparcia locked Connie up in his home and turned her into a sex slave.

On Thursday, Connie was rescued when agents of the National Bureau of Investigation swooped down on Esparcia’s hut.

Esparcia was arrested and Connie, frail and bruised, was reunited with her parents.

The girl, however, was so traumatized that NBI officials said she had to undergo rehabilitation and counseling before she returned home.

Norman Decampong, NBI Pagadian district head, said the girl, now 13, narrated the abuses she suffered in the hands of Esparcia, leaving her scarred psychologically. Julie Alipala, with a report from Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

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