Friday, May 09, 2008

Human Trafficking in the Philippines: Victims’ Kin Part of Problem — and Solution

General Santos City, Philippines

By Bong S. Sarmiento

From the Pinoy Press:

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines- Sheila, Valerie and Bridget (not their real names) hail from poor families here and have set their sights to as far as Manila, Brunei and Japan for jobs as domestic helpers to support their families back home.

But instead of finding work as domestic helpers, they ended up as prostitutes and their recruiters – human traffickers — have simply disappeared into thin air.

Promised heaven, they were delivered instead into a living hell.

The trio’s cases were among the 11 filed as of last December in the courts here since the Local Inter-Agency Task Force against Trafficking in Person (LIATFAT) was created by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

Dubbed “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” General Santos City in southern Mindanao is considered a trafficking “hotspot” because of the proliferation of bars and transit houses, according to the Visayan Forum Foundation, a non-government organization that works to monitor and curb the crime. The city with its large seaport is a traditional crossing point to nearby Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

But on top of its strategic location, human trafficking thrives in this city because of effective parental consent, according to Rebecca Magante, chief of the local social welfare and development office and secretariat head of LIATFAT.

“The sad fact is that parents egg their children on when they are approached by these people in the hope they will send back money to the family,” she says. According to Magante, human trafficking is a problem in 21 of the city’s 26 barangays (villages).

“Victims in previous years have been children, but for 2005 to 2007, adults have become the primary victims. Trafficking cuts across all ages,” Magante says. Of the 204 reported cases of human trafficking between 2003 and 2007, 87 were minors. The great majority were female.

Only 11 cases have been filed in local courts, 10 at the barangay level and 183 have not been filed at all, according to LIATFAT data. Rose Delima of the City Social Welfare and Development Office and the point person for human trafficking, explained that very few cases make it to court because of a lack of interest in going after suspects.

“After the victims are back in the custody of the parents or their relatives, they are no longer interested in pursuing their cases. It is something else for them to worry about on top of their trying to eke out a living,” she says.

Read the full article

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