MANILA – The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) is looking into the recent mass transfer of members of the Badjao ethnic group to Manila.
Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Monday the persons who paid for the travel “will be part of the investigation” by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), a member of IACAT.
“The IACAT has expressed serious trafficking concerns about the mass arrival of Badjaos in Metro Manila so arrangements were made for their return to Zamboanga,” Guevarra said.
The 303 indigenous peoples (IP) members, 110 of them minors, were rescued on Friday at the Manila North Harbor by the Philippine National Police and staff of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
They underwent antigen swab tests for Covid-19 and were temporarily sheltered at the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa depot in Quezon City.
On Sunday, 283 were sent home while the rest had to stay behind for medical reasons.
The incident was the latest in a series of reported movement of indigenous peoples by an unknown “sponsor” whom authorities are investigating.
The Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) Mindanao Field Unit first received information on April 27, 2021 that a group of Badjao passengers was traveling to Manila by plane.
On May 5, the police rescued 18 IPs, 10 of them minors, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
Another six Badjao passengers, including three minors, left Zamboanga for Manila by plane on May 30 but were intercepted by the PNP-WCPC Visayas at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City. (PNA)