By Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY: Some eight members of indigenous peoples (IPs) communities who were victimized by an illegal recruiter and left to fend for themselves in Bulacan province since February are back home in Maguindanao on Saturday.
The eight Teduray youth from South Upi, North Upi, and Datu Odin Sinsuat, recruited to supposedly join the Philippine Army for a fee, have been rescued by agents of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affair- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MIPA-BARMM).
Michael Garrigues, chief of the MIPA Ancestral Domain, said Monday the recruits traveled to and stayed for five months in Bulacan, awaiting the training that did not happen.
The recruiter, Delbert Diwan, is also a Teduray and a former Army reservist.
“The recruiter promised us immediate training upon payment of PHP35,000 but once he had the money, we never heard from him since,” one of the victims, Benzar Cornelio, of Datu Odin Sinsuat, said in an interview.
To survive while in Bulacan, they worked as construction workers to provide for their basic needs such as food and accommodation.
Garrigues said the incident reached the office of MIPA Minister Melanio Ulama, who sent a team of rescuers to Bulacan.
Through the assistance of the San Jose Del Monte City Police Office, the MIPA helped the victims in filing a complaint before Barangay Gaya-Gaya officials.
Diwan promised to return the fees he collected from the victims.
MIPA facilitated the victims’ transport from Bulacan to Maguindanao and provided them with food and financial assistance.
“We appreciate the efforts of MIPA because through this office, our children are now safe,” said Jose Timpadan, father of one of the victims.
Timpadan said he pawned his farm lot to come up with the supposed fee so his son can join the Army training.
Despite what happened, the applicants are determined to pursue their desire to become soldiers.
“We ask the Philippine military to give us slots because we believe it will help us get out of poverty and at the same time, we serve our country,” they said.
Philippine News Agency