For many days now, CNN has been showing trailers of “The Fighters,” the Philippine episode of its laudable “Freedom Project.”
This project is an effort to help vanquish slavery, torture and trafficking of persons by producing in-depth documentaries.
The CNN Freedom Project began broadcasting two years ago. Since then CNN International has watched groups free more than 1,000 people as a result of the network’s stories. The Freedom Project films have won more than a dozen awards and accolades for CNN. They incited public rallies and drove lawmakers to hold congressional hearings.
Because of the documentaries government and private-sector charities moved to provide life-saving surgeries for victims of trafficking and torture. Federal and national laws have been amended and business practices reformed from Cambodia to California. CNN’s commitment against modern-day slavery, trafficking and torture inspired thousands of the network’s viewers to lend a hand to the effort and become fighters against traffickers and torturers.
Some Filipinos who have seen CNN’s trailers of “The Fighters” displayed different reactions in their messages to The Manila Times. Some were angered by the images of poverty and children sex workers for destroying the image of the Philippines and Filipinos.
Others voiced enthusiasm because it shows up the hypocrisy of the Aquino administration.
CNN may be shining a light on an ugly aspect of our society but it is also showing us the beauty of Filipino heroes against modern-day slavery.
Tomorrow, Friday May17, and on Saturday May 18 at 7pm CNN will premiere the two-hour documentary “The Fighters.” It chronicles Philippine human rights pioneer Cecilia Flores-Oebanda’s struggles to protect children from the sex trade and against modern-day slavery. Manny Pacquaio fans will love this film because their hero helped Flores-Oebanda.
A CNN website post by some of the writers and producers who worked on “The Fighters” says:
“Cecilia Flores-Oebanda has spent her life fighting – as a child for some education, as a teen rebel against a dictator, and for more than 20 years against human traffickers.
“She has become the face of the Philippines anti-trafficking movement—a woman who has the ear of presidents, royalty and philanthropists around the globe.
“Along the way she persuaded the biggest name in the Philippines—boxing legend Manny Pacquiao—to join her fight.
“After two years of reporting in the Philippines—from going on police raids in Manila to going undercover in search of human trafficking in remote provinces—CNN can now tell their story.
“Rescued girls describe how they were recruited by traffickers, the ordeals they endured—sometimes by men a computer click and half-a-world away—and how Oebanda saved them.
“And we go undercover in Manila’s bars where girls are available for tourists.
“|Now Oebanda is fighting a battle that could truly ruin her reputation and the organization she created—fraud allegations made by Philippine investigators.”
The documentary repeats ugly data that may even be out-of-date. For instance it says that 100,000 of the sex workers in the Philippines are children. That number is from government agencies that released the statistics five years ago. That may be 20 to 50 percent less than the actual count today. For poverty, unemployment, experience of hunger have increased in the last few quarters—and the root cause of children being used by pedophiles who get their sex slaves from these kids’ parents is poverty.
But not only poverty. Another cause is the low moral standards of Filipinos in general, whether in the elite economic classes or in the poorest of the poor. Only 25 percent of them go to Sunday Mass, which is a commandment of the Catholic Church to which majority of the Filipinos belong and, indirectly, one of the Ten Commandments. That division of the Social Welfare Administration in charge of this crime once said that the incidence of incest among the poorest families is rather noteworthy.
Sex slavery is one of the results of the failure of the government—and the elite that controls 90 percent of our country’s wealth—to improve the economic and social conditions of the at least half of the population who are very poor (25 to 30 percent) and extremely in want (25 to 30 percent).
We pray—now that President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd will have total control of both houses of Congress when the newly elected representatives and senators assume their posts in July—he and his Cabinet decide to pay more serious attention to the mass poverty problem than they have all these almost three years they have been in power.
This is something not only we in The Times have been nagging the administration about.
The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the National Economic Development Authority, among others, have been the sources of data that drive us to make these admonitions on behalf of the public we serve.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also have been making incessant calls for government and wealthy-private sector corporations to do more—not just give doles—to uplift the poorest Filipinos.
May President Aquino and his allies at last hear our voices and give them some value in policy-making, now that they have nearly absolute power in our country.