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Women Posing as Nuns Try to Abduct Girls in Philippines

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John Burger - published on 07/03/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Area hit by November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan still suffering after-effects

How low can you go?

According to a news outlet in the Philippines, girls in the countryside were lured away from their home with the promise of studying in Manila, and almost abducted into a life of human trafficking—by women dressed as Catholic nuns.

"Human traffickers are taking advantage of the desperation" left by the November 2013 typhoon Haiyan, "and have disguised themselves as nuns from a foundation to try and lure young girls to Manila," InterAksyon reported.

Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, was the deadliest typhoon in the Philippines’ recorded history, claiming some 6,300 lives in the archipelago.

Fortunately, the girls were rescued before they totally disappeared.

The article tells the story of a 14-year-old student at the Osmena National High School, whom they called Lyn. She said a group called “Babalam Kevalam” visited her area on a "relief operation" four months after the devestating typhoon.

"One of the members, who identified herself as a nun, approached us while we were planting in our community garden," she said. "She asked the five of us who at that time we are 12-13 years old if we wanted to study in Manila. She offered us scholarships. All of us agreed and immediately “Babalam Kevalam” went to our parents and asked their permission to bring us to Manila."

Lyn’s family, which was struggling to scratch out a living, agreed to let her go. The recruiters prohibited the girls from bringing their cellphones, but one of the youngsters smuggled one onto the bus. 

"When we were at the New Bus Terminal in Tacloban City, a male passenger asked us where we were going. I told him that we were going to Manila with the nuns in orange at the back of the bus," Lyn said. "The man asked more questions and wondered why the nuns were wearing orange. He left the bus and re-appeared with policemen."

The “nuns” were unable to show a certificate from Department of Social Welfare and Development that they were supposed to have for transporting the girls, so the youngster were taken to the police station and later to a women’s shelter. After staying there and receiving counseling for about a month and a half, they were reunited with their families.

The US Department of States, in its latest Trafficking in Persons Report, from 2014, said a significant number of the estimated 10 million Filipino men, women, and children who migrate abroad for skilled and unskilled work are subsequently subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including through debt bondage, in factories, at construction sites, on fishing vessels, on agricultural plantations, as engineers or nurses, and in the shipping industry, as well as in domestic work, janitorial service, and other service sector jobs in Asia, throughout the Middle East, and increasingly in Europe.

"Many victims exploited overseas and domestically experience physical and sexual abuse, threats, inhumane living conditions, non-payment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents," the report said. 

The report said that Typhoon Haiyan impoverished areas which are known to be source locations for victims of trafficking, and resulted in the displacement of more than four million people. 

Tags:
Human TraffickingPhilippines
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