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Human traffickers use email, social media to victimize OFWs — US State Dept

Syndicates trafficking in persons have become tech-savvy, the U.S. State Department said Thursday, noting that “traffickers increasingly used email and social networking sites to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work.”
The 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of the U.S. government, which monitors compliance with “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” also said the Philippines was "making significant efforts" to meet those standards.
But the report also said the country “did not... make significant progress in addressing the underlying weaknesses in its judicial system, which stymied efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable, and the overall number of prosecutions and convictions remained disproportionately low for the size of the problem.”
The U.S. State Department also commended the Philippines' Susan Ople and the Blas F. Ople Center Policy Center and Training Insitute for working “tirelessly to reintegrate trafficking victims into Philippine society” and assuming a lead role in “calling for an increased focus on combating labor trafficking.”
Ople was hailed as one of ten “TIP Heroes” in a simple ceremony that followed brief remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Weaknesses in the justice system
Some 227 cases were filed with the Philippine Department of Justice “but it is unknown how many cases were prosecuted,” the 2013 TIP report said.
The 24 convictions the DOJ managed to win was “a decrease from the 29 traffickers convicted the previous year,” the U.S. State Department added.
It also took note of the passage of amendments of trafficking laws but these had no effect on the rampant and open operations of syndicates.
“Nonetheless, hundreds of victims continue to be trafficked each day in well-known, highly visible establishments, many of which have never been the target of anti-trafficking law enforcement action,” the report said.
The U.S. State Department put forth nine recommendations for the Philippine government to consider:
  1. Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict an increased number of both labor and sex trafficking offenders implicated in the trafficking of Filipinos within the country and abroad;
  2. address the significant backlog of trafficking cases by developing mechanisms to track and monitor the status of cases filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and those under trial in the courts;
  3. conduct immediate and rigorous investigations of complaints of trafficking complicity by government officials, and ensure accountability for leaders that fail to address trafficking-related corruption within their areas of jurisdiction;
  4. ensure the government’s armed forces or paramilitary groups supported by the government do not recruit or use children; continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for police recruits, front-line officers, and police investigators;
  5. increase the number of government officials whose duties are dedicated solely to anti-trafficking activities; continue and improve collaboration between victim service organizations and law enforcement authorities with regard to law enforcement operations;
  6. make efforts to expand the use of victim processing centers to additional localities to improve identification of adult victims and allow for victims to be processed and assisted in a safe environment after a rescue operation;
  7. examine “off-loading” policies to ensure this practice does not interfere with individuals’ freedom of movement; increase victim shelter resources and expand the government shelter system to assist a greater number of trafficking victims, including male victims of sex and labor trafficking;
  8. increase funding for the DOJ’s witness protection program and facilitate the entry of trafficking victims into the program; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims in destination countries and to pursue criminal investigation and prosecution of their traffickers; and
  9. develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism.
The 2013 TIP Report also told the story of a Filipina—identified as “Dalisay”, who worked in Qatar and was able to flee from her abusive employer.
Dalisay's story was told in this fashion:
“Dalisay signed a contract with an employment agency in the Philippines to work as a housemaid in Qatar for $400 a month, plus room and board. But when she arrived, her employer said he would pay her only $250 a month. She knew her family back in the Philippines depended on her earnings and felt she had no choice but to stay to help her family. She quickly realized that her low pay was not the only unexpected condition of her work situation. She was fed one meal a day, leftovers from the family’s lunch: “If no leftovers, I didn’t eat.” She worked seven days a week. When she was finished working in her employers’ house, she was forced to clean his mother-in-law’s house, and then his sister’s without any additional pay. After eight months, Dalisay tried to leave but her boss just laughed and said “You can’t quit.” As a domestic worker not covered under the labor law, Dalisay was subject only to the restrictive kafala, or sponsorship system, meaning that she could not resign without her employer’s permission, change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, or open a checking account without the permission of her employer. She also learned that her employer could withdraw sponsorship at any time and send her back home, so she fled and joined 56 other women who sought shelter at the Philippines Overseas Labor Office.”
The U.S. also noted a report from a non-government organization which pointed to “an increasing risk of boys becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.”
It also said Department of Social Welfare and Development “established a center for male victims, but at the close of the reporting year it was not yet fully operational.”

Global spread

Human trafficking can take many forms - from prostitution to forced labor such as migrant work or domestic servitude - and children also can be victims.

Despite pledges to combat such crimes, countries have failed to identify tens of millions of victims, according to the report, which ranked 188 countries and territories based on their efforts.
Just 40,000 victims of so-called modern slavery were identified last year among the estimated 27 million men, women and children who are held against their will globally, the report said.
"Despite a growing body of knowledge about victims and their needs, finding them remains a tremendous challenge," department officials wrote in their 2013 Trafficking in Persons report.
Among the millions of victims, most are women and girls, although many men and boys are also affected, the report said.  — with Reuters/Earl Victor L. Rosero/DVM, GMA News