14 suspected human trafficking victims rescued in Tawi-Tawi

14 suspected human trafficking victims rescued in Tawi-Tawi

/ 04:35 AM April 30, 2024

14 suspected human trafficking victims rescued in Tawi-Tawi

ACCOUNTED FOR Some of the 14 potential human trafficking victims rescued by government forces in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, on Saturday undergo documentation by the Municipal Interagency Committee Against Trafficking in the area. The victims were prevented from traveling to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the state of Sabah in Malaysia, as they lacked the necessary travel documents. PHOTO COURTESY OF AREA POLICE COMMAND-WESTERN MINDANAO

CAMP SK PENDATUN, MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines — Bangsamoro police along with members of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (IACAT) rescued 14 potential victims of human trafficking as soon as the boat they were riding docked in Bongao port in Tawi-Tawi on Saturday, officials said.

Police Brig. Gen. Prexy Tanggawohn, police director in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the victims were aboard MV Ever Queen of Asia, which came from Zamboanga City, and were supposed to head for Sabah in Malaysia via the so-called “southern backdoor,” but could not present the necessary travel papers to the authorities.


READ: Trafficking, smuggling seen to ease as Tawi-Tawi-Sabah link opens


The 14 persons “were supposed to travel to Kota Kinabalu (the capital of Sabah) and Sandakan in Malaysia but failed to present the legal documents for their travel,” according to Tanggawohn.

The victims came from different places in Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao areas, police sources said.

The 14 persons were both males and females but police did not say how many of them were women, except that the women were in their 30s.

All had no valid Philippine passports, according to the police.

Travel between the Philippines and Malaysia, being members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), does not require a visa, a privilege enjoyed by citizens of Asean countries. But citizens of Asean countries must present their passports upon entry by air, sea and land port to any of the Asean member-nations.

READ: In Tawi-Tawi, 21 rescued from being trafficked to Malaysia



Tanggawohn said the police had been tipped off by the presence of the group aboard the boat from Zamboanga City bound for Bongao, prompting law enforcement agencies to prepare for their rescue.

After they arrived in Bongao, the victims were supposed to be met by a contact, who will bring them to another boat, a launch, to bring them to Kota Kinabalu.

At present, there is a 300-seater MV Prince Khalil fastcraft traveling twice a week between Bongao to Lahad Datu, Sabah, which launched its maiden voyage in September last year.

The trip from Bongao to Lahad Datu takes about three hours.

The “rescued” individuals were now in the custody of the Ministry of Social Services and Development in Bongao but the police and IACAT were still working on ensuring their safe return to their families and places of origin, said Tanggawohn.

Tanggawohn stressed police and partner law enforcement agencies would continue to stop criminal activities in the area to safeguard vulnerable populations and promote a safer environment for all.

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“Together with our partner agencies and communities, we will continue to work tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking and protect the rights and dignity of all individuals,” Tanggawohn said. —EDWIN O. FERNANDEZ

TAGS: human trafficking, Iacat, southern backdoor

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