By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
The “Sea Gypsies” of the Sulu and Celebes Seas or Badjaos who loiter in the streets of Iloilo City compromise their own safety as well as that of Ilonggos.
Hence, there is a need for the city government to rescue them, Mayor Jerry Treñas emphasized.
“To a certain extent may problem kay kon magsulod sila sa mga jeep, mangayo sila kag di mo mahatagan, ginabastos nila or kon kaisa ginaduplaan pa nila mga tawo,” Treñas said in response to the criticisms of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor now Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman against the efforts of the city government to send back the Badjaos to their homelands.
According to Treñas, they are also protecting the Badjaos, particularly the younger ones, from imminent dangers in the streets.
“May mga kabataan pa sila nga kadelikado para sa mga kabataan nga ara sa dalan. What we are doing here is to protect them, ara pa sila sa traffic delikado ka-ayo,” he stressed in an interview on Monday.
In his Facebook page, Hataman has questioned the move of the Iloilo City government to deport Badjaos.
He emphasized that the liberty of movement within any part of the country is a basic human right that knows no gender, ethnicity or even social standing, and is stipulated in the Constitution.
“Why send them back in a manner that strips them of their dignities? And simply sending mendicants away from its area of jurisdiction does not address the underlying problems that brought these Badjao people to Iloilo City – and other urban centers for that matter – in the first place,” Hataman said.
He also urged the city government to act with caution and care when dealing with the Badjaos.
“I call on the LGUs, and the DSWD, PNP and other national government agencies to provide these IPs like the Bajdaos with long-term solutions that protect their dignity and their rights as human beings who are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. We need to act with compassion, understanding, efficiency and integrity to stop the exploitation of our people for good,” he added.
Meanwhile, Treñas said they are currently coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to address the problem on Badjaos.
“We are coordinating wih DSWD and PNP para nga they do not become a danger themselves. Kon ano mayo, we coordinate with DSWD kon batunon sila sa DSWD didto sila paistaron. Let us all be practical, diin mo sila paistaron, wala man di sila istaran para safe man sa kabataan,” he added.
If the Badjaos were properly taken care of in their own jurisdiction, Treñas said they wouldn’t go to Iloilo City in the first place.
“Ang una hatagan sang livelihood ang mga diri gaistar kay damo pa backlog ta amo na nga gangita pa kita relocation site kay kadamo pa sang backlog ta, damo pa backlog ta sa relocation site. Para sa akon, kon gina-atipan sila sa ila lugar, indi na sila magkadto di. Ako wala man ko ga-ano kay Congressman Hataman but you know, we take care of the Ilonggos, we make sure that no one is hurt here,” he noted.
Last September, the city government rounded up over 20 Badjaos in a joint rescue operation and were sheltered in a gym at Barangay Sambag in Jaro, Iloilo City.
According to Executive Assistant Gary Alejano, there are around 120 Badjaos in the metro.