By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – Eight young women from Davao, three of them minors and three are pregnant were rescued from white slavery through the initiative of women’s group Innabuyog-Gabriela with the Baguio City Police Office – Women and Children Protection Center (BCPO-WPCPC) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Cordillera Administrative Region (DSWD-CAR) on February 9, 2012.
According to Innabuyog-Gabriela Secretary-General Mila Singson, she received a text message at around 11:00 AM of the same date from Lani Flores of Lawig Bubay, a member organization of Gabriela Davao regarding eight young women asking to be rescued from the newly opened Monro Disco Bar located at Bokawkan Road.
Flores stated in her message that the women sought assistance to get away from detention and from being exploited by the owners of the bar.
Singson immediately called the BCPO-WCPC and reported the case and sought assistance for the rescue. The agency then advised Flores to instruct the women to try to escape.
According to Singson, five of the eight were able to get out of the disco bar before lunch time while the rest escaped at around 1:00 pm that day.
Through a series of interviews, the women narrated that a certain Nora Chang, owner of a massage parlor in Davao City recruited them promising them work with high compensation and assistance to their families. They added that Chang also promised them that they will get their salaries in advance once they arrive in Baguio City.
On February 1, the eight with Chang arrived in Baguio. The eight then asked Chang for their salaries so they could immediately send it to their families but she told them that they will only get it after the bar opens on February 3.
They were later told at the bar that they will work from 8:00 pm to 4:00 am and will receive P100 for their daily allowance.
They were also told that they are not allowed to go out during daytime. Singson stated that as a result, they could not buy food for breakfast or lunch.
On February 4, they asked the owner of the bar, said to be a Korean national named Henry Soo for their salary advance as promised by Chang but Soo refused.
They later learned from the other employees that Chang was paid by Soo a partial amount of P130,000. This they were told was for bringing them to work for the bar.
The victims contacted Chang through phone but she did not answer them. On February 7, Chang sent them a text message saying she no longer has any connection with Soo due to his unpleasant attitude.
Chang also denied that she received any amount from the bar owner.
The eight upon realizing their unsecured situation thought of escaping but were unable because they were locked in.
On February eight, a certain Jean, the secretary of Soo accompanied them for their medical examinations. After the check-ups, Jean instructed them to wait for her at Burnham Park until 6:00 pm.
While wandering at the park, they saw the office of the BCPO-WCPC and thought of going there to seek help but three of them hesitated thinking that minors are not allowed inside.
When they returned to the bar, they told their friend guard regarding their plan of returning to Davao. They also contacted their families about their plan. In the morning of the next day, the padlocks of the gate were not locked.
They then proceeded to the BCPO-WCPC office where Singson, volunteers and staff of Innabuyog-Gabriela met them.
At the said office, they were initially interviewed by Singson and company and were given counselling.
Later at the afternoon, they were brought to the office of the DSWD-CAR for the processing of their case.
The staff of Innabuyog and DSWD decided to send the victims home immediately. DSWD could only shoulder their transportation expenses to Manila.
Singson then contacted the office of the Gabriela Women’s Party List (GWP) for assistance for the plane tickets to Davao which they accepted.
The amount for their plane fares will be sourced out from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of GWP.
In a statement by Innabuyog-Gabriela, the eight women are victims of sex trafficking. “Poverty brought about by lack of employment and/or the destruction of their livelihood sources pushed them to grab the offer of working here in Baguio.
In situations like this women are vulnerable to illegal recruitment, as it is easier to believe there is hope in other places.
Unemployment due to lack of employment opportunities and lack of skills subject women to take on to the flesh trade, often as a “last resort” to make ends meet.
The survival of their families depend on their daily earnings, their bodies become their capital,” stated the women’s group. “It is in treating women as utilities of servitude and their bodies as medium for sale that they are easily traded,” the statement ended.
On February 10, the eight traveled to Manila accompanied by two social workers. They will proceed to the GWP office for further assistance and temporary shelter. # nordis.net