21 women rescued from cop tasked to stop human trafficking
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The authorities rescued 21 women from a policeman assigned to a government task force against human trafficking and his wife as some of the women, who had allegedly been forced to take drugs, were being readied for travel to Sabah, Malaysia, police said Thursday.
Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, Tawi-Tawi police chief, said the rescue of the women and the arrest of Police Officer 1 Jonald Cuadra Ladjahassan and his wife Verna were made in three separate raids in Bongao, the provincial capital, on Wednesday.
He said most of the women were recruited from Maguindanao for jobs supposedly awaiting them in the east Malaysia state of Sabah.
Jocson said seven victims were rescued from the Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao at around 9 a.m. Wednesday. The victims were on their way to Zamboanga City where they were to start their journey to Sabah.
At 1 p.m. on that same day, seven more women were rescued from the Fortune Inn, also in Bongao, Jocson said, adding that police raided Ladjahassan’s house in Barangay Tubig Boh later in the evening, where seven more women were rescued. It was there that the policeman and his wife were arrested, he added.
“At the height of the arrest, two women were found naked and they were forced to take drugs by this police officer. We learned that Ladjahassan was also into drugs,” Jocson said in a telephone interview.
Jocson said the raids were conducted after one of the couple’s recruits managed to escape and told authorities about their ordeal.
“Majority of the victims were from Maguindanao. They were scheduled to leave for Sabah,” Jocson said.
Charges under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act as well as the Dangerous Drugs Act were now being readied against the Ladjahassan, a repeat offender, and his wife, Jocson said, adding that the two were to be transferred to Zamboanga City for prosecution.
He said the Tawi-Tawi policeman, who was assigned with the Bongao Municipal Inter-Agency Committee Against Human Trafficking (Miacat), was also arrested in May for the same offense, along with his other wife, Maria Vema Gaticales, also a member of the committee.
“The couple managed to post bail then,” Jocson said.
After posting bail, Gaticales urged the Regional Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (Riacat) to investigate Jocson for his motives in accusing her of being involved in human trafficking.
Jocson said the rescued victims were being sent to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Zamboanga City for documentation and filing of affidavits for the cases against Ladjahassan and his second wife before being turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Jocson said the authorities “believe there are others in uniform involved in this illegal activity.”
Last May, police rescued more than 100 suspected victims of human trafficking who were crammed in a budget hotel in Zamboanga City, and arrested their recruiter. About half of the rescued victims, who were all from Basila, were minors.
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