13 Japanese students rescued from suspected traffickers in Davao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Two Japanese nationals and their Filipino worker are facing charges for allegedly trafficking at least 13 of their countrymen who came to the Philippines to learn English but found themselves being beaten and forced to do manual labor. 

Charges are being filed against Hajime Kawauichi, 61, and his son Yuya Kawauichi, 35, for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 (RA 7610), as well as the Special Protection of Children Against Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 10364).

Police Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of Davao’s Regional Police Office, said the Kawauichis were arrested last Friday, May 4, in a raid led by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte.

Also arrested was Lorena Mapagdalita, who according to Driz, worked for the Kawauichis. “But her RA 7610 case has been dismissed,” Driz said in a press briefing in Davao City on Wednesday, May 9.

The inter-agency group initiated the rescue operation in the Davao del Norte island city after a tip by a resident. The resident told the authorites that Japanese nationals, many of them minors, were allegedly abused by the Kawauichis.

The minors, according to police, arrived in Davao City in 2017. They arrived in Samal in October to take lessons in English and Karate, for which their parents supposedly paid a monthly fee of as much as P100,000.

But the students found themselves becoming workers, and allegedly were being beaten by the Kawauchis, according to Police Superintendent Venus Ortuyo, Samal’s police station commander.

Sila na ang ginapatabang ug construct sa ilahang facility didto sa Samal. Ginapakalot sila ug mga poste, mag haul sila ug balas, bato, mga yuta and then ginapamix ug cemento (They are the ones helping construct the facility there in Samal. They were tasked to dig holes for posts, haul sand, rocks, and soil, and then mix cement),” Otuyo said in a TV Patrol Southern Mindanao report May 8.

The same report also showed police photos of evidence that the Japanese nationals were being beaten.

Alma Acera, a social welfare officer in Davao, said there were questions as to why the students were being beaten “to the point of being wounded.”

Of the 13 rescued, 9 were minors who were now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The suspects are detained at the Samal police station, said Driz, who added the Japanese consulate has intervened as the Kawauichis could barely speak in English.

“There is a possibility that they will be deported; but that depends on the outcome of their cases,” she added. – Rappler.com