52 Filipino fishermen arrested in Indonesia repatriated

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The repatriated fishermen disembark from the BRP Cebu on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Davao City (CNN Philippines) — Fifty-two Filipino fishermen arrested in Indonesia for illegal fishing were formally turned over to the Philippine authorities Tuesday, June 2, morning.

The ceremony was held at the Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters here in Davao City. The Filipino repatriates arrived from Indonesia aboard BRP Cebu.

Indonesia authorities arrested the fishermen for illegal entry in their waters. They also destroyed the Filipinos' fishing boats.

Present during the hand-over were officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Bureau of Immigration, and Bureau of Quarantine.

The repatriates — ages ranging from 15 to 60 — narrated their experience in the hands of some Indonesian authorities while staying at the detention cell. Some of them stayed for a few weeks while others stayed for more than six months. 

Robert Mondejar Gordo, a 16-year old fisherman from Malapatan, Sarangani, said that some of the arrested Filipino fishermen were physically abused by the Indonesian officials.

Some were slapped hard while others were mauled. The minors, he said, were made to do pushups.

Willie Cabunilas from Surigao said his passport expired and was arrested. He said that he had been working in Indonesia for almost 13 years now and had already married an Indonesian. He said he was treated well by the Indonesian authorities. He plans to go back to Indonesia once he gets a new passport.

Also repatriated were the remains of a Filipino fisherman who was allegedly killed by a Filipino colleague sometime in December 2014 while fishing in the Indonesian waters. The body of a certain Roque was cremated and his ashes was placed inside an urn that was handed over to his family.

The Filipino repatriates said that about 182 more Filipinos are still detained in Indonesia and were not allowed to board the BRP Cebu because they lacked documents to prove that they are Filipino citizens.

Coleen Marie Curayag of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the repatriates would be processed and will be given help with their papers.

They will then be turned over to the DSWD who in turn will assess the repatriates' physical and mental conditions before they be sent to their hometowns.

The repatriation was made possible by the agreement between Indonesia and the Philippines. The repatriates used a Filipino vessel that participates in the annual Corpat Philindo Exercise which is a joint sea patrol exercise between the two countries.