The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be conducting a probe to determine who were responsible for the mass arrival in Manila of 303 members of the Badjao indigenous people (IP) from Zamboanga, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Monday, June 7.
The Badjaos were rescued last Friday, June 4, at the Manila North Harbour Seaport by agents of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“The IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) has expressed serious trafficking concerns about the mass arrival of Badjaos in Metro Manila,” said Guevarra, chairman of IACAT.
Thus, he said, he will order the NBI to do a probe considering that “the NBI is a key member of the IACAT.”
At the same time, Guevarra said that “arrangements have been made for their return to Zamboanga this evening (June 7).”
IACAT Administrative Officer V Nadine Bernardino said 250 rescued Badjaos will be boarding a 2Go ship bound for Zamboanga that was arranged by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
They were supposed to be brought back to Zamboanga aboard a Philippine Navy vessel on Sunday, June 6, but the trip did not push through, Bernardino said.
“Logistical problem with Philippine Navy vessel,” she explained.
She said that those who will not be joining the trip are 21 IPs who were taken to an isolation facility in Paranaque City and 32 others who have been staying at the temporary shelter in Quezon City under the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program.
She said that the 21 Badjaos in Paranaque City include four persons who tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and their families who got exposed to them.
The 32 IPs in Quezon City claim to have families in Metro Manila and have legitimate reasons for travelling, she said.
“PNP and IACAT OpCen (Operations Center) will secure the area until na validate ang mga relatives at purposes nila (until their relatives and purposes have been validated),” she said.
The IACAT had said in its previous statement that the transport of the 303 IPs to Manila violated Republic Act No. 9208, also known as the Anti-Trafficking in persons Act of 2003, as amended by RA 10364 and RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
The rescue operation was conducted after the PNP’s Women Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) received information last Wednesday, June 2, from the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that about 340 Badjao passengers were scheduled to depart Zamboanga aboard a ship bound to Manila.
“The information further disclosed that their travel was facilitated/sponsored by an undisclosed individual,” the IACAT said.