By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
Reports in radio and online platforms on Wednesday claimed that the Iloilo Terminal Market, particularly the second floor, is being used as “sex dens” or lodging houses by commercial sex workers.
Task Force on Morals and Values Formation chief Nestor Canong revealed that spaces in the upper floors of the market popularly known as “Super” are being rented for as low as P200 to P300 for illegal sexual activities involving mostly minors.
The reports even reached Mayor Jerry Treñas who confirmed that prostitution is going on at Super.
The reports shocked vendors like 56-year-old Jun Javier who owns a lumpia wrapper business in Super for decades now.
Javier denied the allegations emphasizing that the reports were purely based on hearsays.
“Wrong information to ang ginhatag sa ila kay sa kadugayon namon diri wala gid kami sang may nawitness nga amo na,” he stressed.
Javier claimed that one radio reporter even interviewed a drunken man who possibly gave out the wrong information.
“Ang isa to nga gininterview kagina hubog man to kag indi man to taga diri, sala gid ya ang impormasyon nga galibot, ambot kung diin nila na nakuha,” he said.
Most of the vendors such as Candy and Bores were also surprised when they heard the reports from radio about the sexual trade going on in the upper floors of the market.
“Nakibot ko sa pagkabalo ko kay sa pulo ko di katuig nga baligya, wala man kami may amo na nga nakita,” she said.
According to Candy, the upper floors of the stalls are being used by the vendors to stock their goods while other vendors use the place as resting area.
“Mostly abi ginabutangan na nila goods ang sa babaw amo na kami man nashock sang nabatian namon sa radyo kay daw ka imposible gid,” she added.
Another retail stall owner said the reports were “false alarm”, adding that it is impossible that there is commercial sex trade going on in Super since there are also CCTVs in the area.
Instead, the vendors are pointing their fingers to a group of minors or gang members that are roving around Super at night time.
Vegetable vendor Nella Pomar shared that she had a close encounter with the minors who are members of the so called “Sperm Junior” sleeping in the upper floors of the stalls in Super.
“Mga 30-40 na sila kabilog nga galibot diri, gagahod and iban gakadto sa computeran,” she said.
The group of minors have been a problem for the vendors, according to Pomar especially since there are cases of stealing.
However, she stressed that there is no sex trade going on involving the minors.
“Naistorya ko man sila mung, laban sa ila di galagaw, gapangawat gatulog gid man sa babaw sang mga stalls amo na gani nga may mga kudal na dira ang sa babaw na mga stalls amo na nga sala gid na nga impormasyon nga may gabugaw,” she said.
This was confirmed by Super market-in-charge Erick San Agustin who said that roving minors have been a perennial problem in the area since 2017.
“Dugay na ni nga problema sa minors, nag-ayo na kami assistance from Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and police and naka-rescue naman kami teh nadula sila and subong nagbalik naman,” he said.
San Agustin said the minors drink liquor and sometimes cause rumbles at Super but as to engaging in commercial sex, he said they have yet to catch any minor doing so.
“Nabatian kami istorya pero ina nga kabataan, kis-a gainom-inom sila teh kung mahubog sila, teh amo na guro wala ta kabalo ga-engage. But as to the sex den, wala gid kami may nadakpan,” he stressed.
San Agustin said that the right term to be used should be minors who “can’t be controlled.”
Meanwhile, Local Economic Enterprise Office (LEEO) head Jose Ariel Castañeda also confirmed that a group of minors have been conducting fraternity hazing activities at Super.
In fact, Castañeda said they were able to rescue around 14 minors in Super last Friday. Their ages ranged from 12 to 17 years old.
“It was a joint operation together with the CSWDO, Women and Children Protection Desk of the Iloilo City Police Office, and Task Force on Moral and Values Formation and most of them are not from the area. Kadamuan sa ila naghalin sa lain-lain nga distrito pero dira lang sila gatipon,” he said.
According to Castañeda, they have not caught minors engaging in any sexual activity in the market.
“Ang ila da primary goal is to conduct hazing and grupo-grupo and I am not really sure if the sexual activity is part of hazing and we don’t really know because information is sketchy, wala klaro kung ano ang activities,” he explained.
He added that the issue is more of speculation even as he encouraged vendors to help his office prevent any illegal activities in Super.
“Ang mga kabataan more of like victims, so gina-encourage ta ang vendors nga mangin observant man and magreport sa amon,” he said.
Meanwhile, Castañeda said Mayor Jerry Treñas already ordered them to destroy illegal structures in Super to prevent any untoward incidents from happening.