TIMELY RESCUE. Police officers of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat successfully rescue members of the Indigenous Peoples community (Dulangan Manobo tribe) from suspected human traffickers who would have brought them to Manila for employment, sans their parents’ approval, on Sunday (Nov. 8, 2022). The white van they were riding in was flagged down at a police border checkpoint in Barangay Christianuevo of the municipality. (Photo courtesy of Lebak MPS)

COTABATO CITY – Police in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat filed charges against two men who supposedly tried to bring Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to Manila for employment.

Lt. Col. Julius Malcontento, Lebak municipal police chief, said charges for violation of Republic Act 9208 (Human Trafficking Act) were filed Tuesday against 32-year-old John Francis dela Cruz of Barangay Landayan, San Pedro, Laguna; and 32-year-old Keith Lyle Andraje of Barangay ECJ Montilla, Tacurong City.

The two men were arrested Sunday in the company of 10 members of the Dulangan Manobo indigenous community, four of whom are minors. They were aboard a passenger vehicle heading to Tacurong City.

“We received a complaint from the mother of one of the minors who were taken without their knowledge,” Malcontento said.

Malcontento immediately alerted police border checkpoints and police personnel managed to flag down two vehicles in Barangay Christianuevo – a Toyota Hi-Ace loaded with 10 IPs and a white Toyota Grandia van (GAG-1715) used by the two suspects.

Marina Ongkas, the mother of one of the minors and a resident of Barangay Poloy-Poloy, claimed that their children were recruited with the promise of high-paying jobs in Manila without approval from the parents.

“We thank the police for responding on time and saving our children,” Ongkas said in the vernacular.

Malcontento also lauded the parents for quickly informing the police on the matter, resulting in the timely rescue of the victims and arrest of the suspects.

The suspects are now detained at the Lebak police detention facility while the victims have rejoined their families. Charges of illegal recruitment and human trafficking are being readied against them by the police. (PNA)