Monday, January 12, 2015

Young Ecija mother flees from sex trafficking gang in Surigao

GABALDON, Nueva Ecija – A 23-year-old mother of three has escaped from the clutches of a suspected sex-trafficking syndicate in Surigao Islands which has reportedly been recruiting young women for supposed high-paying jobs only to end up as entertainers and prostitutes.

          Socorro (not her real name) managed to sneak out of a brothel in Surigao Wednesday back into the waiting arms of her grieving mother Veronica Lacandoza of Barangay Calabasa in this town. She and a dozen others have been forced into white slavery in a restaurant used as fronts for prostitution in Surigao.

          The woman, a high school drop-out, showed contusions and bruises in both arms reportedly after she was repeatedly beaten up by three burly bouncers of the restaurant which, she said, was owned by a Japanese national. It was her punishment for refusing to entertain customers, mostly foreigners in the faraway island.

          Lacandoza told reporters that her daughter’s misfortunes started when the latter applied for a job as a waitress in San Pedro, Laguna last October 22. The victim said she was lured by the promise of a high salary amounting to P150 per hour. She identified her employer as a certain Santos.

          “I got interested in the job because it was my way of survival and it would ensure food for my family,” the dusky victim, who has three children aged six, five and three, said.

          The victim has long been estranged from her husband who works as a jeepney conductor in the town. They have not seen each other for nine months.

          The victim added that after a week in her job, she and her two other companions were herded into a van by the employer who said they are going to haul some stuff to be brought to their place of work. While on their way, they fell asleep.

          She said that when they woke up, they found themselves in the company of 11 other women. They were later told by their companions that they were in a mountain island in Surigao. “All you could see outside were mountains,” she said.

          The woman said that in Surigao, they were treated like prisoners as they were not allowed to go outside.

They were also deprived of enough food to eat, making them weak. “Sometimes, we get to eat twice a day and there were times when we ate only once a day,” she said.

          She said they were forced to entertain customers, most of whom were Indian nationals.

          The woman said they may have been drugged by their “Mama Sang” who injected fluids into their body, causing them to lose consciousness. Their employer was described as an elderly, ugly long-haired and burly lady.  

          “For about four times a week, I got dizzy,” she said, recalling that the drugs were injected during the night. She said at times, they were made to sniff something which emits a fragrant then a putrid smell.

          She said that on a number of occasions, she would refuse to entertain customers and in the process, she would be mauled by the bouncers who would only let up when she has lost consciousness.

          The woman said that her employer’s sister, identified only as Jo, took pity on her and her two other companions and plotted her escape.

On January 7 at around 3:30 pm, Jo managed to persuade the employer to allow the woman and her two other companions to go out on the pretext that customers are supposedly waiting for them. “Mama Sang allowed Jo to accompany us because she thought we won’t be allowed to escape. Jo was very much trusted,” the victim said.

Outside, they boarded the trip bound for Matlog, Sorsogon . There, they transferred to another ferry which took them to Manila, using the fare sent to her by her mother.

Ben dela Cruz, one of Lacandoza’s advisers who helped fetched the victim in Manila and back to their home in Calabasa,  called on authorities to investigate and track down the syndicate which has been victimizing unsuspecting women and feeding them to sex-starved customers.

He advised women job-seekers to be wary of advertisements posted in public places promising of high-paying jobs which actually were a modus operandi to lure them and later turn them into sex workers in far-flung places.

           “At first, padadamahin lang sila (they would be entrapped) and afterwards, they would be turned into GROs for the flesh trade,” he said. – Manny Galvez

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