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by Philippine National Agency

Twenty-two (22) fishermen, including a teenager, from the towns of Bien-Unido and President Carlos P. Garcia (Pitogo) were lured by sweet promise of bountiful earnings from fishing in faraway Sitangkay, Tawi-tawi province in southern Mindanao but it turned out to be a nightmare, said Diosdado A. Pera in an interview.

The promise was so tempting that the alleged recruiter, identified as one Policarpio Mantos of Cataban island-barangay off Talibon town who made the offer, generously provided them cash advance in the amount of PhP10,000 each for their families they left behind before heading to Mindanao, he said.

But the most shocking of their ordeal is the unfortunate death of one of their companions identified as one Mike Reymond Arreglado, 17, said the group’s leader Diosdado A. Pera.

The 22 fishermen, who were called by Gov. Edgar Chatto as victims of the trafficking in persons, welcomed the financial assistance extended to them by the provincial government, said Pera.

Each received PhP10,000 from Chatto during the meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council presided over by the governor held here in time for the launching of Heat caravan.

The governor said that the assistance is to enable them to start anew and the sum would be used as seed money to start a livelihood.

Mystery of death

The circumstances surrounding the boy’s death remains a mystery to her mother and the rest of Pera’s group.

Pera said they were told that the boy was drowned while fishing on a part-time on another fishing outfit, using the alleged illegal compressor. A compressor is a gadget mounted on a fishing boat, which supplies enough oxygen for fishermen doing the spear fishing underwater for hours, said Pera.

Rowena Arreglado, the mother of the young Arreglado, confirmed in an exclusive interview that her son passed away. She lamented the loss of her son and expressed anguish she was not able to see her son’s remains even for the last time because it was not brought in their home.

Asked why he let her boy to go with the rest of Pera’s group, Rowena Arreglado said it was due to poverty hoping that he could earn more income to help her family of eleven (13). Rowena Arreglado said she is on the family way for the 12th child. Her husband is just a fisherman also.

She said she and her husband will not let her other boys to venture into the unknown again, never, short of saying she’s sorry for what happened to him.

Pera said that while they’re still in Tausog’s territory in Tawi-tawi it would be difficult for them to bring his dead body in Bohol for they might be noticed of their plan to escape from their “boss” identified as Benjamin Jaybot, alyas “Agi,” a Tausog Muslim, whom they worked for and paid them of their catch. He said they had no option except to bury the dead body in Tawi-tawi.

Ordeal

Pera narrated their ordeal within eight months since they left Bohol early last year.

One was that their fish catch from spear fishing using compressor was bought only at very low price tag by Jaybit contrary to what their recruiter promised.

Even if they caught what they called enough catch to earn for their provisions in a given time still they must do more fishing routine to earn additional income. There were times they cannot almost buy rice supply because of shortage. There was always shortfall of their provisions.

Aside from a low earning of their catch, they also live in fear because of the presence of armed men that Jaybit maintains in his compound where they dwell for a moment while in Tawi-tawi.

They’re even warned not to take steps to run away from the place for they might be shot at if they do. How many times they tried to convince Jaybit to let them go home but only to be told that if they do how can they repay their (cash) advances, said another fisherman, Vicente Doblas, in an interview.

Pera said he convinced his fellow fishers and hatched a plan to escape. First they had saved some gasoline supply for the motorboat they’ll use en-route to escape sometime in December last year. And breakout they did.

They’re able to reached Zamboanga and reported what they’ve gone through in the hands of the Muslim.

Pera said he and his group are very grateful their lives saved and thankful to the Philippine Navy and other agencies, including the provincial government, who extended assistance that facilitates them to see their family again.

Victims

The fishermen-victims of illegal trafficking in persons were identified as Rolando Trocende, Ronel Torcende Vicente Doblas, Virgilio Oponda, Maredcadel E. Pera, Servando Bucio, Jr., Angelito Rosales, Marcelino Mabatuan, Jr. and Virgilio Omit, all of them are residents of island-barangay sa Maomawan, Bien-Unido. And Rogelio Lugod is a resident of San Jose, Getafe, aside from Diosdado A. Pera, also of Maomawan, Bien-Unido.

Others include Gary Hewe, Feliciano Doron, Tommy Doron, Ryan Doron, Leopoldo Gabas, Jomar Baculfo, Roel Boiser, Jiji Zapanta, Rico Gaylan, and Dennis Casio, all of island-barangay Gaus, President Carlos P. Garcia (Pitogo).

Meanwhile, Mantos is nowhere to be found in Cataban, said Pera, saying he (Mantos) might sense he is now the subject of charges to be filed by authorities concerned.

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Romans 10:9-10
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Where to Stay in Bohol? Book at Dao Diamond Hotel and Restaurant in Tagbilaran City. Online reservation at: https://www.daodiamond.com



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