ZAMBOANGA CITY - Acting on a tip-off, operatives of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) together with partner-agencies rescued 16 victims of human trafficking in Tawi-Tawi province over the weekend, a top official said Monday.
Rear Adm. Toribio Adaci, NFWM commander, said the victims were rescued aboard a passenger ferry that docked on Saturday afternoon at the port of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi's capital town.
Adaci said the 16 rescued victims, all women, are from the various provinces of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. They traveled to Bongao passing through the city.
"The rescued individuals were immediately brought to the Tawi-Tawi maritime police station for proper documentation," Adaci said.
He said the victims were supposed to be transported from Tawi-Tawi to other countries via the southern backdoor through Malaysia.
Twelve of the 16 victims were promised by their recruiter for high-paying jobs in Lebanon while the remaining four as domestic helpers in Malaysia.
Each victim paid a PHP25,000 placement fee.
Adaci said the victims were believed to have traveled to Bongao together with a guide who is working for the recruiter, but no one showed up during the rescue.
The latest operation brought to 37 the total number of rescued human trafficking victims since January this year in Tawi-Tawi.
Bongao municipality's Local Council on Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Violence Against Women and Children reported that 11 individuals have been rescued in its drive against trafficking in persons in the first quarter of this year.