RP remains center for human slavery

By Paul Atienza  
The Daily Tribune


State-DepartmentThe Philippines under President Aquino remains a hot bed for human trafficking, which was described as the modern form of slavery, based on a recent US State Department report on the transit of persons for 2014 in which the country was retained on the Tier 2 list.

Tier 2 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, according to the State Department report.

The report cited the country as a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. It said government efforts under President Aquino against human trafficking remains lacking.

“The government continued to prosecute sex and labor trafficking offenses and to impose stringent sentences on convicted sex traffickers, but it did not make progress in convicting labor traffickers and its overall number of convictions remained low compared to the size of the problem,” it said.

The US State Department noted that during the reporting period, the Philippines National Police (PNP) investigated 155 alleged cases of trafficking, 90 of which were cases of forced labor, 58 were cases involving sex trafficking, and details of seven were unknown.

“The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also initiated 82 trafficking investigations, 25 cases of which were recommended for prosecution,” it added.

It said during the reporting year, 317 new cases of trafficking were filed at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and prosecutors’ offices nationwide, and of these 317 cases, 190 were filed in various courts and 663 defendants were prosecuted,” it said.

It added the government convicted 31 sex trafficking offenders, compared with 25 during the previous year but it did not obtain any convictions for labor trafficking.

“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,” according to the report.

The Filipinos cited in the report are mostly those known as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which the Aquino administration depends on in terms of their huge monthly dollar remittance to sustain economic growth.

Policies undertaken by the government are more of providing support to the local families of OFWs rather than bringing the Filipinos home by providing more employment opportunities through the development of local industries.

The US government report stated that 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.

“Forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women, and children within the country also remains a significant problem. Women and children from rural communities, areas affected by disaster or conflict, and impoverished urban centers are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in small factories, and sex trafficking principally in Manila, Cebu, Angeles, and cities in Mindanao, as well as within other urban areas and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerta Galera, and Surigao,” the report said.

It added men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture, including on sugar cane plantations, and in fishing and other maritime industries.

Hundreds of victims are subjected to sex trafficking in well-known and highly-visible business establishments that cater to Filipinos’ and foreign tourists’ demand for commercial sex acts.

The report also cited child sex trafficking, which it said remains a serious problem in the country and “occurs in private residences, facilitated by taxi drivers who have knowledge of clandestine locations.”

Child sex tourists include citizens from Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Northeast Asia, Europe, and North America, it said.

Increasingly, very young Filipino children are coerced to perform sex acts for internet broadcast to paying foreign viewers, it added.

It also cited government and NGOs reported an increasing prevalence of boys becoming victims of sex trafficking.

Traffickers, at times in partnership with local organized crime syndicates and corrupt government officials, recruit family and friends from villages and urban neighborhoods, sometimes masquerading as representatives of government-registered employment agencies, it said.

The report also noted that traffickers increasingly use email and social networking sites to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work.

Fraudulent recruitment practices and the institutionalized practice of paying recruitment fees leave workers vulnerable to trafficking, it said.

Illicit recruiters used student, intern, and exchange program visas to circumvent the Philippine government and destination countries’ regulatory frameworks for foreign workers.

Recent catastrophes that hit the country provided a new dimension to human trafficking, according to the report.

“In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread damage in the Philippine provinces of Leyte and Samar, impoverished areas which are known to be source locations for victims of trafficking, and resulted in the displacement of more than four million people,” it said.

Although the full extent of the typhoon’s effect on trafficking in the Philippines is unknown, media sources reported isolated allegations of trafficking and illegal recruiting, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated at least two suspected cases of typhoon-related trafficking.

“Children and adults in conflict-afflicted areas were particularly vulnerable to trafficking; a violent crisis between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City and Basilan Province in September 2013 resulted in the displacement of more than 120,000 people and increased the vulnerability of children to recruitment by the MNLF, including for use as human shields,” the report said.

It cited a United Nations (UN) report that other armed militia groups operating in the Philippines, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters recruited and used children, at times through force, for use in combat and noncombat roles during the reporting period.

“The UN noted concerns that the Armed Forces of the Philippines occasionally forced children—including those intercepted from armed groups—to act as guides and informants during military operations,” it added.
Presidential Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte, in response to the report, said the Aquino administration has vowed to exert more efforts on curbing human trafficking.

The United States government has been providing funds for the program of anti-human trafficking in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on June 20 in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Kerry’s report was considered as the most comprehensive report on governmental efforts worldwide to combat human trafficking.

Valte said that the accomplishment of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) was contained in the report, adding that the DoJ should be commended for having assigned a number prosecutors focusing on the anti-human trafficking cases.

“In fact, from the last 21 convictions, there was an increase for this particular year to 32 and there are more cases brought to the court,” Valte said.

Valte said the agency of the Bureau of Immigration has a role also after some 101 employees were charged administratively who were doubted to have facilitated trafficking.

“The government is doing its best to file these cases and to see that the prosecutions are properly done. However, since there are three branches in government also, we have continued to encourage our counterpart in the judiciary to cut down on the lengthy trial processes,” Valte said.

Valte said one of the reforms that President Aquino has been pursuing would be the judicial reform on how to shorten the tedious legal processes.

Valte said the only thing that the government could do would be to prosecute the offenders, but could not impose higher or stiffer penalties unless given by law.

“Now, it will be up to our legislators if they want to increase the penalties,” Valte said.


One Response. Have your say.

  1. Max Rialto says:

    Thanks for bringing this in the open. The post about freedom/independence generated a lot of comments but none here (until now). Is it because we’re ashamed? Pinoys should be – we don’t want to be lumped in the same category as those “other” places in Africa, Middle East, Thailand and Cambodia. Yet more indicative is the fact the Philippine govt ” did not obtain any convictions for labor trafficking.” Thanks again for bringing this issue out from under the radar.

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