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Opinion

Missing?

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

After all the Sinulogy's revelry, colors, dances, and devotion, everyone in Cebu will have probably gone back to their regular routine by now. We were surprised to read in the news, however, about the missing children and elderly. Ms. May Miasco of this newspaper wrote that the two seniors reported missing were aged 60 and 80. No details were mentioned about the "missing" children. How many are actually missing seems to be also unclear, with various estimates reported by different sources.

According to the same report, the number of reported missing from 6 a.m. on Sunday, January 17 until 6 a.m. of Monday by the City Hall's Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was at least 30 people.

We certainly join all those who are looking for the "missing" and we hope and pray that they are found and reunited with their families at the soonest time possible. Acting Cebu City Mayor Labella has sent a letter to the Cebu City Police Office, to DSWD-7, and City Hall Department of Social Welfare and Services of City Hall. These are the offices that can be contacted in case you may stumble upon any of the missing persons during the Sinulog.

We are all very grateful that this year's Sinulog, this year's celebration of the Feast of the Sto. Niño, was peaceful and meaningful. However, this news report of a significant number of "missing" requires more vigilance and tighter coordination among various agencies and offices to ensure everyone's protection, especially of minors, elderly, and other vulnerable persons or groups during major events and celebrations. We also pray that the minors especially are safe and cared for where they are now, until they are reunited with their families. We fervently pray that no one was victimized by any individual or group connected to human trafficking. Losing children during the Feast of the Child Jesus is certainly not happy or welcome news at all. We hope the authorities have happy reports to announce soon about these missing minors and elderly.

On the issue of human trafficking, a friend posted a November 9, 2015 article posted in the New York Times, written by Ian Urbina about unsuspecting villagers from various parts of the Philippines lured by abusive recruiters with false promises about very high wages and good working conditions as seafarers. If you wish to read the whole article which is a must read for all, please refer to this website:   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/world/asia/philippines-fishing-ships-illegal-manning-agencies.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0.

The stories of abuse are known. Many can relate to what one informant in the NY times article noted: "You go with pride," he said of his experience, "come back with shame." Many of our seafarers also have experienced being "deeply in debt, some more than $2,000, from recruiters' fees, lodging expenses, health checkups, tourist visas and seamen's books (mandatory maritime paperwork)." Many know very well and still feel the pain and stress of having "borrowed from relatives, mortgaged their homes and pawned family possessions: "our one fishing boat," "my brother's home" and a carabao (a water buffalo)."

"It's lies and cheating on land, then beatings and death at sea, then shame and debt when these men get home," said Shelley Thio, a board member of Transient Workers Count Too, a migrant workers' advocacy group in Singapore, quoted in the NY Times report.

Yet, the abusive recruiting and dispatch continue, with many of our innocent kababayans tricked into various abusive human trafficking schemes and networks within our country and elsewhere, in many parts of the world.

Please be more careful about offers for jobs abroad. Call POEA, the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Philippines and inform them about the recruiters, their names, their addresses, their contact numbers. Before you release any amount or cash, please, please, take time to get solid and correct information about the recruitment offer. Warn others, too, not to immediately believe recruiters, even if they are your best friends, relatives or neighbors.

With so many stories of abuses, please be careful and be forewarned. Before you pay any amount, consult the proper authorities and NGOs or ask help from the Commisson on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) atTelephone (+632) 552-4700, Email: [email protected] or refer to their website at http://www.cfo.gov.ph/. For human trafficking cases, please report, call or text the anti-Human Trafficking  action line 1343 or call (02) 1343 for those outside Manila. You can also report to this website: www.1343actionline.ph.

[email protected]

vuukle comment

ACTING CEBU CITY MAYOR LABELLA

CEBU CITY DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT COUNCIL

CEBU CITY POLICE OFFICE

CITY HALL

CITY HALL DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND SERVICES OF CITY HALL

FEAST OF THE CHILD JESUS

FEAST OF THE STO

FILIPINOS OVERSEAS

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

MISSING

QUOT

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