Philippines working to stop human trafficking
MANILA – Cases of human trafficking surged to nearly 2,000 during the first two months of the year, almost the same number for the entire year of 2022.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, in an interview on Monday, March 13, said trafficked Filipinos are usually taken via Thailand, then to Myanmar where rescue becomes difficult once victims are taken to rebel-infested areas.
“It is alarming, very alarming,” Remulla told reporters after an inter-agency meeting at Malacañang Palace in Manila.
He said involved agencies will focus on Southeast Asian countries.
“This is what we call modern-day slavery. Kaya nga sana ang Pilipino, mag-iingat. Dapat mayroon tayong checklist bago gustuhin natin mag-abroad (Filipinos should be cautious. We should have a checklist before we go abroad),” he advised.
Remulla said the problem could have been compounded by the pandemic, which forced Filipinos to seek income from all means.
“Maraming naghahanap ng opportunity. Ang problema lang, ang Pilipino kasi, ang tingin nila ‘pag sa abroad, sobra mas mabuti lagi. Eh kaso wala kang depensa ‘pag nasa abroad ka na (Many are looking for better opportunities. The problem is Filipinos think that going abroad is always the better option and it happens that when abroad, they are no longer being protected),” he said.
The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) is mandated by law to coordinate and monitor the implementation of Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, with the DOJ as the lead agency.
The IACAT conducts different projects geared towards the elimination of trafficking in persons, prevention of the occurrence of trafficking, the protection and rehabilitation of victims, and the conviction of trafficking offenders.
The Philippines has become one of the source countries for human trafficking abroad of men, women, and children where victims are forced to work in domestic, construction, and other industries.
Traffickers use the promise of fake job positions overseas to exploit migrant workers and Filipinos already working or living overseas, of which the UN estimates there are over 10 million. They usually target individuals who are either from indigenous communities or are living in rural areas. They usually offer jobs as maids, waitresses or entertainers to trick individuals into trusting them. This tactic preys on the desperation of many poor and economically disadvantaged individuals who can be particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
Traffickers send some human trafficking victims in the Philippines to Manila, while they traffic others abroad to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have worked recently to prevent this cross-border trafficking, but human trafficking rings are still a huge problem.
Sources: Benjamin Pulta of PNA and The Bergen Project