October 7, 2022

Two female minors, who were offered to work as servers for a catering business, ended up getting trafficked in Tabuk City, Kalinga but were rescued by police authorities on Aug. 27.

The Tabuk City Police Office reported the rescued victims are 15 and 17 years old who were found working as bar attendants in Barangay Appas.

The report stated the mother of the 15-year-old victim said her daughter was missing since June 31. On Aug. 27, the mother received a call from her missing daughter, informing her about the latter’s condition and location.

The minor pointed to the suspect, 35-year-old Maribeth Rizal Tagatag as the one who recruited them to work in her catering service. However, when both minors arrived in Tabuk City, they were forced to work as attendants in the suspect’s shady bar.

Police investigation further revealed Tagatag allegedly forced the minors to be involved in sexual activities with the customers.

Another suspect, 25-year-old Ber A. Wandagan, allegedly forced the minors to use shabu while on the job.

Upon receiving the call from the minor’s mother, the Tabuk City Police Office res-ponded and arrested the two suspects, both hailing from Tabuk City, and rescued the two minors. 

Tagatag and Wandagan were charged for violation of Republic Act 9208 as amended by RA 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.

The victims also underwent intervention from the Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) and were sent home to their families.

Police Regional Office-Cordillera Information Officer, Cpt. Marnie Abellanida said investigation is ongoing to determine if there are other suspects involved in the crime as well as other victims.

Kung may mga lulutang pa na magrereklamo ay aasikasuhin naman natin,” Abellanida said.

He said based on the data of the WCPD, the incident is the fourth case of trafficking in persons (TIP) in the Cordillera this year.

There are earlier cases of TIP recorded in Kalinga, Benguet and Ifugao with one case each for this year.

Trafficking in persons is considered a violation of human rights. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, adoption or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation or when the adoption is induced by any form of consideration for exploitative purposes shall also be considered as “trafficking in persons”. If found guilty of trafficking in person, the suspects shall be penalized with imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P2M. – Ofelia C. Empian