AUTHORITIES rescued at least 130 boat passengers who they said are potential victims of human trafficking in Zamboanga City last Wednesday, officials said on Friday.
The Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATTF) also arrested two suspected traffickers, Orlando Daniel and Benjin Bacaltos.
Chief Supt. Reginald Villasanta, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), said Daniel was arrested Wednesday morning aboard a boat bound for Sabah via Bakungan, Taganak Island in Tawi-Tawi.
Villasanta said the boat was carrying 36 adults and 12 minors who came from Davao and Zamboanga provinces.
A few hours later, the same team from the task force nabbed Bacaltos and rescued 82 potential victims on board the MV Mary Joy 3 and MV Ever Queen Emilia.
Villasanta said the two boats were bound for Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi via Jolo and Bongao in Sulu.
Among the passengers are three women and two minors, deep-sea divers or “muro-ami” and fishermen.
“They were recruited to conduct deep sea fishing and fish drying production in Sitangkai,” Villasanta said.
The victims told PAOCC investigators their employers promised to pay them once they reached Sitangkai, and their recruiter paid for their fare.
Villasanta said Daniel and Bacaltos were brought to the RCIDU-9 for questioning, while the potential victims were taken to a place of safety where they are being interviewed, counseled and debriefed.