City Hall worker tied to women traffic ring

By Dante M. Fabian

ANGELES CITY--A councilor Wednesday accused a City Hall official of colluding with the head of a firm that recruited and detained women who were earlier rescued in Paranaque City.

Councilor Irineo "Bong" Alvaro, in a privilege speech during Wednesday's regular session, alleged that a staff of the Gender and Development (GAD) office was involved in a women traffic ring.

The Philippine Center on Transnational Crimes (PCTC) rescued 31 women about two weeks ago, including residents of this city, Mabalacat and other Pampanga towns.

Alvaro said there are still several Angeleñas and Pampanga residents believed still suffering in the hands of unscrupulous people.

Three of the rescued victims said victims from Mabalacat and other Pampanga towns are still in the hands of the syndicate, hidden in a still unknown safehouse.

The raid and rescue were conducted after a series of surveillance operations by the teams headed by Chief Insp. Loreto "Mon" Delelis and Chief Insp. Sheldon Jacavan.

Police operatives arrested Donna Garcia, Lorna Pingul and Jaya Trinidad, and seized documents, passports, various equipment and paraphernalia used in making fake passports at the residence of the suspected illegal recruiter, identified as Leonora Garcia Aquino, of Block 57, Lot 55, Abelardo corner Reyes St., Garden Abelardo, BF Homes Executive Village, Paranaque City.

Donna is reportedly a sister of Aquino, while Jaya is Aquino's daughter. They were detained at the PACER headquarters in Camp Crame.

The raids were conducted by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Marie Christine A. Jacob, for illegal recruitment, illegal detention and trafficking of persons.

The victims and their relatives directed their complaints to former Councilor Susan Pineda after failing to get help from the GAD office where one of the officers, identified as Nelly Warner, had allegedly asked for P200 from one of them as transportation expense.

One of the victims said instead of assisting them to be released, Warner has been providing information to Garcia that enabled the latter to evade arrest several times.

They said they learned this from Garcia herself.

Warner also threatened her mother to refrain from reporting their ordeal to anyone.

She said Warner told her mother that Garcia's group is "well-connected and very influential."

Pineda said the raids were conducted after the IMA Foundation sought the help of the WLB and the PCTC in locating several women from Barangay Sapangbato, Margot, EPZA, Pulong Cacutud of this city.

Pineda said another victim, Agnes Pacheco of Hensonville, Barangay Malabanias, was rescued on August 13.

She said both women related the maltreatment they suffered and detention against their will in the residence of the recruiter.

Cut short

However, after the exposé, the investigation by the council was cut short when Vice Mayor Ricardo Zalamea adjourned the session on a motion by Councilor Sonny Lao.

Councilors Rudy T. Simeon, Vicky Vega-Cabigting and the stenographers moved out of the session hall after Zalamea's declaration.

Angry on the early adjournment, Councilor Alexander Cauguiran denounced Zalamea's move as illegal saying the latter declared the adjournment during recess.

He said Zalamea did not give the other members of the council a chance to debate Lao's motion, which he said is debatable under the rules.

Cauguiran then took the chair and decided to continue the session, with himself presiding.

The session was later called into a committee of one chaired by Councilor Agapito Del Rosario III, chairman of the Committee on Women.

He said Zalamea's move was not official because the session had not resumed when Lao moved for adjournment.

Alvaro assailed the walkout of Zalamea and the administration councilors saying it deprived the victims of illegal detention the opportunity to air their gripes against the GAD office.

20/11/2003

Bron : Sun Star

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