CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The 34 Lumad from the Manobo-Pulangihan tribe who were rescued from slave-like working conditions in a fish farm in Sual, Pangasinan, have finally returned to their hometown, Quezon, Bukidnon.
The group of 34 and two children, arrived in this city after a ferry ride from Manila on Monday night, July 8, en route to their destination.
Jonathan Sampitan, a member of the group, said that they escaped their "abusive" employer Arian Hao. They were recruited by fellow Lumad Danny Talisan, and left Cagayan de Oro for Manila with an escort on May 12.
From Manila, they were brought to a fish farm in Sual. They were lured by the promise of a P7,500-monthly salary with free and housing, and even an advance salary and the assurance that other Lumad had been working in the fish farm.
"But when we got there, there was no advance salary given, that's when we realized that we were duped," Sampitan said.
They were forced to work for long hours, and to bring fish feed to cages in the sea even if they feared the open water as they couldn't swin. Having had enough, the group escaped by walked along the shore for 4 hours to find help on July 1.
Photo by Bobby Lagsa
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Region 10 director Pinky Pabelic welcomed the Lumad upon their arrival at the port.
Pabelic said that the NCIP central office will file human trafficking cases against the recruiters and unfair labor practices against the Lumad's employer.
The NCIP, Quezon town government, and human rights advocates are expected to hold a dialogue in the Lumad's hometown to discuss the plight of the Lumad human trafficking victims this week.
The NCIP wanted to billet the group at a nearby hotel where they could spend the night before heading home the following day but the Lumad wanted to go home to right away, even if was close to midnight.
Human rights lawyers Czarina Musni and her mom, Beverly Musni, the Lumad's lawyers, also insisted that the Lumad be taken home directly as their community in Quezon town had pitched in to rent vehicles to take them home.
After some discussions, the NCIP asked for police escort for the Lumad, so the Lumad and their lawyers had to stay at the Cugman Police Station for more than an hour as the police sorted out the escort order.
The group finally arrived in Quezon, Bukidnon, on Tuesday morning, July 9. – Rappler.com