DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 November) – A high number of minors has fallen victims to cases of human trafficking this year, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 11 said.
DSWD-11 served a total of 98 human trafficking cases from January to October this year. Seventeen of the victims were males while the rest were females.
DSWD regional director Priscilla Razon said the situation is becoming alarming because a high number of minors are involved: 37 belong to the 13-17 years old bracket, while nine are even younger.
“Minors are the ones being victimized by perpetrators,” Razon said. “This is why there is a lot of advocacy needed to raise awareness among the public so that they can report these human trafficking activities.”
She said the victims are exploited sexually or through forced labor, cyber pornography and adoption.
“This doesn’t only happen in the city but proliferates throughout the region,” she said, citing Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, and even Maguindanao, South Cotabato, Zamboanga, and Surigao.
Razon pointed out that poverty is the primary driving force behind this illegal human trade. She said that when the potential victims drop out of school for financial problems, they are lured by their peers into finding easy money.
This is how they end up in the hands of people who have no respect for women and children, she explained.
She said there’s a need to intensify apprehensions and actions by the government.
Global Impact founding director Amy Muranko-Gahan echoed Razon in terms of awareness on human trafficking.
“We believe that there’s so much that’s unreported,” she said, referring to the human trafficking cases. “The Philippines is very high ranking among Southeast Asian countries and globally.”
She said the increase of cases in Davao doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an increase in human trafficking activities, but because more people are becoming aware of the situation and are reporting it.
A month-long campaign that kicks off on November 12 aims to raise awareness among the public and help them learn how to deal with human trafficking.
Gahan said her organization is maximizing technology to help people report illegal human trade.
Global Impact maintains the Freedom Philippines Facebook Page and smartphone apps for both iOS and Android users.
Gahan noted that while the primary driving force behind human trafficking is poverty, there are other factors at play.
She said a person can still be trafficked even if he or she is not impoverished, but admitted that poor people are more vulnerable to trafficking.
She said this is why they want to focus in poor communities.
“People traffic others because of other reasons too. Some people are evil. Some are selfish. There are other factors. They include perceptions, ways of thinking, cultural acceptability, and norms across Southeast Asia,” she said.
Gahan has been in the Philippines since 2010. Since then, she has been in the forefront of fighting human trafficking, and bringing awareness to people.
“Something has to be done,” she said. “Twenty-seven million people are living in slavery in our world, and we can’t sit back and not do anything.”
She said there are many ways to be aware and the core of it all is to become a voice to the community and to break the “culture of silence”.
“We have to stand up and be involved in fighting against human trafficking.”
On December 12, there will be a march for freedom in Davao City from the Freedom Park to the People’s Park. The event is expecting 1,000 people from supporters, NGOs, and local government units. Participants will wear orange bandanas to symbolize freedom from slavery.
The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State said that “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.”
“These are said to happen in factories, at construction sites, on fishing vessels, on agricultural plantations. These cover “domestic work, janitorial service, and other service sector jobs in Asia, throughout the Middle East, and increasingly in Europe.
“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, Puerto Galera, and Surigao,” the report said.
The Philippines is labeled as a tier 2 country, which the report notes as one of the “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.” (Jesse Pizarro Boga/MindaNews)