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DOLE intensifies coordination efforts against child labor
Fri, Mar 10, 2017 (Source: ZCFO)
Zamboanga City - On March 04, 2017 at around 11:00 in the morning, the DOLE-Zamboanga City Field Office together with elements from the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC)-Mindanao Field Unit, Zamboanga City Police Office-Women and Children’s Desk, Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB)-9, Department of Social Welfare and Development-9, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT)-9 and Visayan Forum successfully rescued from a residence in Baliwasan, Zamboanga City three (3) siblings, all minors reportedly kept as workers in payment of their father’s debt.

The operation was staged immediately the day after the WCPD of the Olutanga Municipal Police Station (MPS) coordinated with the WCPC relative to the report made by the mother of the victims about her children’s difficult situation under her previous boss.

Interview of the family revealed that the complainant mother,Jocelynstarted working with the children’s employer as a household helperback in 2002 at their residence in Tongkil, Dungon in Jolo, Sulu. The 3 rescued children,a girl and two (2) boys were born and grew up in the same place.

The girl, aged fourteen (14), started working with her employer when she was around eight years old, acting as caregiver to her male employer, subjected to the most degrading task of attending to his bathroom needs. Upon his death, she started helping her mother in the household chores. In 2015, she started receiving a monthly salary of P500.00 which eventually stopped in 2016.

The oldest of the siblings, a boy aged fifteen (15) started helping out in feeding chicken at about the same age as his sister. As he was growing older, he went out with his stepfather who used to work for the same family in their compressor-fishing business, during fishing trips helping tend to the compressor used by the fishermen. Both children reported that they were subjected to physical abuse whenever they fail to do as commanded, oftentimes beaten before their mother. Jocelyn stated that on those occasions, she was left to cry in silence lest she also get beaten.

In November 2016, Jocelyn was freed from her previous husband’s debt after her now live-in partner paid P25, 000.00 to her employer. Excited to start their family life away from the oppressive employers, Jocelyn however, went home to Olutanga without her 3 older children as they were refused freedom unless she pay their employer another P25, 000.00.

The 2 older children further disclosed that they stopped attending formal school as early as 2015. The girl was made to study in the Madrasah in a nearby mosque when she was transferred to the Zamboanga City residence of her employer. The younger boy, aged 13 on the other hand continued going to school in Tongkil, with his brother acting as his guardian. The boys were left to attend to their own personal needs, living in the hut they used to share with their mother, depending on the older one’s monthly salary of P100.00 for subsistence, which he earned helping haul diesel from his employer’s residence to cell sites in neighboring areas.

The reunion of the 3 children with their mother was a very emotional one, rushing to their mother and hugging her tight. After the initial interview, they were turned over to the Visayan Forum, together with their mother and youngest sisterfor temporary shelter, while the law enforcers are preparing appropriate charges against the employer.

The rescue operation was conducted within days from the Refresher Course in the Conduct of Surveillance and Rescue Operations on Child Labor facilitated by DOLE-9 through its Zamboanga City Field Office on February 28, 2017, participated by 53 personnel from the PNP, WCPC, DSWD, Office of the City Social Welfare and Development, DepEd and DOJ-IACAT-9. Highlight of the activity is the Zamboanga City Sagip Batang Manggagawa Quick Action Team (SBMQAT).

Annavic S. Cordova, DOLE-ZCFO

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