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Zamboanga Freedom Warriors vow to continue fight for freedom on Independence Day

Zamboanga cyclists and human rights advocates, together with thousands around the Philippines, raised the flag of freedom on Independence Day as their pledge to continue the fight against modern day slavery when they pedaled for freedom last June 12, 2013 at Plaza del Pilar, Zamboanga City.

The Freedom Ride is part of the Stop Look Listen campaign of Dakila against human trafficking. The Stop Look Listen campaign kicked off last March 9 through the Freedom Ride held in McKinley Hill, Taguig City and was participated by around 1,000 cyclists. The bike ride was aimed to popularize the 1343 Anti Trafficking Hotline.

In Zamboanga City, close to 250 cyclists and advocates participated in the first-ever advocacy bike ride campaign that was held in the city last April 27, 2013.Freedom Rides were also held in different provinces known as trafficking hotspots of the country: Iloilo City (April 20), and Dumaguete City(May 5). This paved way to the biggest bike rides ever organized in Panay Island (500), Dumaguete City (400) and Zamboanga City (250).

The Freedom Ride held last Independence Day was the last of the series of Freedom Rides organized by Dakila.

“Slavery still exists and it now takes different forms: forced labor, sexual exploitation, mail-to-order brides, child labor, etc. By organizing the Freedom Rides, we wanted to help put a stop to human trafficking as we all pledged to become Freedom Warriors. As warriors of freedom, we not only promise to take care of the freedom we currently enjoy but also protect and fight for the freedom of others,” said Nityalila Saulo, Project Director of Freedom Ride.

According to reports, Zamboanga City is a source area for trafficking.Illegal recruiters coerce, trick, or deceive people into prostitution, begging, and manual labor. Popular among illegal recruiters and trafficking victims is the backdoor entry to Sabah, Malaysia. Different government and non-government organizations work tirelessly to intervene and intercept illegal recruiters but there are still some who slip past the watchful eyes of authorities.Poverty is one of the main causes why people are pushed to become victims of this highly organized crime.

“We want to put an end to slavery. We are not truly free until everyone is free” Noel Cabangon, respected recording artist and vice-president of Dakila added.

Kiko Miranda, Project Coordinator for Freedom Ride Zamboanga and an instructor at the Department of Communication of ADZU said, “Let us strengthen our engagement and participation in advocacy activities such as the Freedom Ride so that Zamboanga will be placed on the map of engaged citizenship and nation building. By pledging our support to educate the public on pressing issues such as human trafficking, we are being heroes for social change. As Freedom Warriors, we have sent a powerful message — we want a human trafficking free Philippines. This made our celebration of Independence Day more meaningful. Here is to hoping that our concerted efforts will pave another road towards the freedom of our fellow Filipinos who remain enslaved or who remain vulnerable to human trafficking.”

The Freedom Ride was organized by DAKILA – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism with support from of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Department of Justice Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ – IACAT) and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC). Local partners were Project Banig Zamboanga, Zamboanga Bikers101, International Order of Demolay – James J. Wilson Chapter, WMSU Human Rights Center, and MTV EXIT.