The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) of the Walk Free Foundation, an international institution which aims to end modern slavery around the world, has dubbed the Philippines as a country with strong efforts to respond to modern slavery even with limited economic capability.
The country ranked 103rd out of 167 economies with prevalence of people in modern slavery or an estimated of 261,200 people in modern slavery or around 0.266 percent of the total population.
The Philippine government was also cited in the latest GSI report as third best in the Asia Pacific to respond to modern slavery with response rating of “BB”.
The Report rated the country “BB” noting that “the government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery”.
Among the efforts of the current administration, the GSI Report highlighted the government’s actions to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — a vulnerable sector for modern slavery for the country.
“Following reports of abuse of Filipino workers in the Gulf States, the Philippine government introduced a raft of innovative measures to ensure domestic workers were protected. This includes standardized employment contracts that require pre-deployment verification by the Philippine Labor Office and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), a minimum monthly wage of US$ 400 and holidays among other measures,” the report cited.
The report also noted the increased budget allocation for support and protection of victims of unfair labor for both Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad through the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT).
The Aquino administration has allotted a total of US$ 2.4 million for this program in 2014 alone.
“In addition to victim support and protection, the Government continued its efforts to implement the 2012-2016 National Strategic Plan on Trafficking in Persons. Law enforcement efforts increased from 2013 to 2014, with the Government securing 31 sex trafficking convictions,” the GSI Report further cited.
Aside from OFWs, the Report mentioned that women and children were vulnerable to modern slavery.
The GSI Report also noted the trafficking of women in disguise of marriage to foreign nationals for the purpose of commercial sex exploitation.
On the other hand, children, particularly in Mindanao region, were reportedly used as guides and informants as well as being engaged in armed groups such as New People’s Army, Abu Sayyaf, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Looking at sectors in the economy, the report cited high incidence of forced and child labor in agriculture particularly in tobacco, banana, and sugarcane businesses.
To further end the modern slavery in the Philippines, Walk Free Foundation’s recommendation for the Philippine government include:
*Increase efforts to effectively implement the expanded anti-trafficking law at the local level, including better cooperation of key Government agencies to provide education, undertake awareness raising and support prosecutions;
*Immediately push the Draft Bill – Special Protection of Children in Situation of Armed Conflict Act 2011 – through the Senate and take required steps to implement the legislative protections for children;
*Continue to monitor and respond to the use of children in armed conflict;
*Undertake information campaigns to ensure the public know how to identify and report cases of modern slavery;
*Upscale law enforcement efforts to prosecute all forms of modern slavery, including those involving government officials in embassies;
*Upscale efforts to ensure that employment conditions of OFWs is monitored and streamlined to ensure access to rights and protection, including establishing the central database to track cases of OFW exploitation;
*Continue to take steps towards the elimination of corruption, focusing more on corruption in the public and judicial systems; and
*Pass, and implement protections outlined in the recently amended ‘Anti-Mail Order Bride Law’, and ‘Family Code’ to ensure both foreign nationals and Filipino citizens who use marriage for the purposes of sex trafficking, forced commercial sexual exploitation can be prosecuted, and victims have explicit rights to protection and support to exit the situation. PNA