250 rescued trafficked Badjaos to be brought back to Zamboanga

250 rescued trafficked Badjaos to be brought back to Zamboanga

MANILA, Philippines — More than 200 of the rescued Badjao people, suspected to be victims of human trafficking, will be brought back to their home city in Zamboanga City on Monday night, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking said.

IACAT administrative officer Nadine Bernardino told reporters on Monday that 250 Indigenous Peoples will be transported to North Harbor Port in the afternoon. “The ship bound for Zamboanga will leave at 6:00 p.m,” she added in Filipino.

Authorities rescued some 303 members of the Badjao tribe in Manila last week. They suspected that they were brought to Manila by a human trafficking syndicate to make them work as laborers.

Bernardino said 32 of the rescued IPs who said have relatives in Luzon are in a government facility, while the Philippine National Police and the IACAT secure the area while validation is ongoing.

There are also some 21 who will remain in Manila for health reasons. Bernardino explained that most of them came to Manila by ship, but the swab test results they presented are questionable.

After they were made to undergo a swab test, four tested positive for COVID-19. “The families of those who tested positive will not join today and will be isolated too since they got exposed to the patients. They were transferred to Parañaque [local government unit] for isolation and monitoring,” she added.

Of the 303 Badjaos, of whom 263 have been interviewed by social workers and the police, 156 are adults and 107 are minors. They were turned over to a temporary shelter in Quezon City under the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program of the National Housing Authority.

Investigation ordered

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra meanwhile said the probe into the incident and to determine the identity of the person who supposedly paid for the travel is ongoing.

“The IACAT has expressed serious trafficking concerns about the mass arrival of Badjaos in Metro Manila. So arrangements have been made for their return to Zamboanga this evening,” he said. The Department of Transportation will provide additional buses for their travel.

“In the meantime, I will direct the IACAT to investigate this matter further,” he added.

The National Bureau of Investigation, who is also part of the IACAT, will also look into the person who allegedly paid for their travel, Guevarra added. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Evelyn Macairan

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