Friday, February 20, 2009

White Slavery Remote Field

Jennifer’s Slippers and Damp Dresses
Js Braza
Malabang, Lanao del Sur, Tuesday, January 27, 2009 --- While conducting a follow-up investigation of a vehicular incident where a platoon of the 51st IB was involved at Brgy Timbangan, Binidayan, Lanao del Sur (a remote baranggay near Malabang), a girl approaches them asking for help. In their conversation, they found out that she was a victim of child trafficking. She revealed that she was brought to Binidayan by a certain Hadji Amer, a businessman who owns a stall in the public market of Malaybalay, Bukidnon. In Binidayan, she was sold to Kali Amerol, a resident of Brgy Timbangan, Binidayan, who then subsequently handed her over to the former’s brother Kabukar Amerol to become his “wife”. In a house where she stayed, she was made to work not only in the home but also in the farm. If she refused to work, she would be told that she was bought by Ten Thousand Pesos (Php10,000), a 51st IB PA Intelligence Officer said.
When I interviewed the girl, Jennifer Caballero (not her real name) was reluctant to tell her story. At the age of 13, she stowed away from her home in Quezon, Bukidnon in the year 2006. She left her jobless mother, who remarried to a farmer. She said that they always scolded her. She was only a grade two pupil and never again attended schooling until she decided to run away from home.
Jennifer could not read simple words. When I let her write her name on a piece of paper, she did could write but her penmanship was the same as that of my kindergarten girl. As a stowaway, she became a street child in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. In Malayabalay, she always roamed around in the town’s public market where she met Hadji Amer, a Meranao businessperson, who owned a dry good store there.
The hadji was very good to her. He gave her some food and lovely dresses. She was always thankful to him. Then, Hadji Amer promised to give a good job if she would go with him to Binidayan. She agreed even if she did not know where Binidayan is. Then, they just took a bus.
According to Jennifer, the trip was too long. It was already nightfall when they arrived. Upon their arrival, Hadji Amer talked to a woman named Kali Amirol. After the conversation, which she did not understand, she saw Hadji Amer received a bundle of money from the woman. She understood that she was sold by Hadji Amer to Kali Amerol in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (Php10,000) then she was handed over to Kabukar Amerol.
From then on, she received no news from Hadji Amer. She became the “wife” of Kabukar Amirol’s. But she was not treated as a wife. He often beat her every time he wanted to make sex with her, every time she committed mistakes. She would receive punch in her stomach. Kabukar’s and his relatives treated her as a slave. She did most of the house chores and was forced to work in the farm.
Many times, she attempted to escape; yet many times she failed. They always kept guard on her, besides she never knew the place where she was.
Until one day, on January 26, 2009, when the government troops was involved in a vehicular accident in Brgy Timbangan, the place where she was living, she went with the crowd to see what happened. The following day, the government troops came back. Hesitant and feeling afraid, she approached the PA officer and begged to help her escape from the place. She wanted to go back home to Brgy Balangay 5 in Quezon, Bukidnon.
After knowing that she is a victim of human trafficking and white slavery the PA Intelligence Officer reported it to his Commanding Officer, Col David Diciano (GSC) PA 51IB 1ID Tabak, and the latter decided to take custody of the child after they had reported the matter to the police.
Col Diciano decided to report the case to the tri-media in order to help Jennifer. Yet, after eight days, there was no development. So on February 3, 2009, the colonel decided to solicit for our help and handed the girl to WATCH, Inc., which is under Margie Amarga, a social worker, who made a referral to forward the girl to the Bantay-Bata, Iligan for a temporary shelter.
Jennifer refused to stay in Bantay-Bata, for whatever reason. She asked Lt Julius Yasay to bring her back to their camp in Malabang because she felt safe there.
We could hardly convince her that she is safer here in Bantay-Bata than in the camp. Later, after our conversation with Mrs. Juanita, chief director of Bantay Bata- Iligan who she treated and accommodated her well her, she then agreed to stay. In Bantay-Bata, she can call 51IB 1ID anytime. She was promised that after two days she will be brought home to Bukidnon.
Jennifer is a girl whom she can gain sympathy from others. She can read numbers but cannot read simple words, such as names. She took from her small bag pieces of paper, then she whispered to me, “Sinong may ari ng number na nasa mga papel na ito?”
She got three cell phone numbers from the 51st soldiers. One written on a cigarette silver was Uncle James’; the other one written on a small piece of paper was Kuya Jack’s; the third one written on a leaf of a notebook was Lt Yasay’s. After I told her the owners of those numbers, she was very happy and said, “Ako ning taguan. Ako silang kontakon. Ako silang mga amigo. (I will keep it. I will contact them. They are my friends.)” Then, she sheepishly put down her bag to check the things that she had brought with her—pair of gray slippers and some wet dresses. --- JSB

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