DSWD-12 intensifies drive against human trafficking

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 January) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) has stepped up its monitoring on overseas travels of minors from the area in a bid to prevent possible cases of human trafficking and exploitation.

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 director, said Monday they have tightened the processing of clearances for minors traveling abroad (MTA) in coordination with concerned agencies and local government units.

“This is part of our continuing efforts to protect children who are traveling to other countries from any form of abuse,” he said in a statement.

Last year, Espejo said they processed and approved a total of 992 MTA clearances for various purposes, including scholarship grants and competitions.

He said none of the travel clearance applications were flagged for possible human trafficking and related cases.

The issuance of travel clearance for children was set under Republic Act (RA) 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and RA 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.

Nairah Aratuc, chief of DSWD-12’s social protective program, said applicants are required to submit photocopies of the child’s birth certificate or an authenticated copy from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

She said they should present a notarized affidavit of consent from both parents, solo parent or any legal guardian that indicates the authorized traveling companion of the minor and their relationship, country of destination, length of stay, purpose of travel, and tentative dates of departure and arrival.

As additional requirement, she said they ask applicants to either provide the PSA-issued marriage certificate of the minor’s parents, certificate of no marriage (Cenomar) for solo parents or a photocopy of a certificate of legal guardianship.

Solo parents should also present identification cards or certification issued by the city or municipal social welfare and development offices, and “Tallaq” or “Faskh” certification from the Shariah court or any Muslim religious leader.

For illegitimate minors, she said the applicants should provide a Cenomar issued by the PSA. Those with deceased parents are required to provide a photocopy of the death certificates.

DSWD-12 was among the lead agencies of the region’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which was tasked to implement the provisions of RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

In past years, the council recorded several cases of human trafficking involving minors who were recruited for supposed overseas jobs.