THE brutal murder of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, a transgender person, in a hotel in Olongapo City near Subic Bay Freeport, last Oct. 11, 2014, allegedly by US serviceman Pvt. 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps, who has been charged by the police, highlights the ever growing presence of the government-approved and -protected sex tourism in the Philippines.
While the fate of “Jennifer” is deplored by all who respect the dignity and right to life of all human beings we must not think this is an isolated crime. We must not forget the estimated 100,000 under age children that are abused, trafficked, sold and sexually exploited in the sex clubs, bars, brothels and beach resorts all over the country.
It attracts pedophiles and sex tourists from all over the world, mostly coming from Korea, the USA, Japan, the UK, Australia and EU countries. Many become child abusers and return to the own countries to endanger children there.
The increasing presence in the Philippines of the large number of US servicemen under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and its most recent expansion under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows US military to occupy and set up a base within the Philippine camps and bases. Not only is this a very questionable circumvention of the constitutional ban on foreign military bases in the Philippines, it is aggravating and adding to the rampant and shameful prostitution and sexual exploitation of trafficked children and young women.
This sordid business is already ravaging our young people and destroying the good name of the Philippines. That government officials issue operating business permits to sex bars is in effect an invitation to customers that encourages human trafficking. The government is in effect offering our young girls, many under age, to sex tourists and military personnel to come and abuse them. This is contrary to Philippine law and the US anti-human trafficking policy and laws, and the programs of the US State Department. The US military also have to enforce restrictions on their troops visiting the Philippines.
Since Philippine government officials allow this business, it is tacitly approving the outcomes: women are made into sex objects, dignity is trampled upon and young people are exploited, abused and murdered. Although I doubt if President Aquino is aware of the extent and negative impact of the sex trade on women and children and on his own and his administration’s international reputation. While human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is a worldwide crime in developed and developing nations alike it has to be stamped out and opposed everywhere and especially in predominantly Catholic Philippines.
The Catholic Church ought to be more outspoken and apply it’s moral influence on public opinion and government to oppose the trafficking of persons and the sex trade. It should be actively involved in protecting the family, women and children. Pope Francis has condemned it in all its evil forms. The sex trade morally corrupts men some of whom sexually abuse their own children. Clergy are corrupted too. Bishops and parish priests must take an open stand and speak against such slavery and abuse or their silence might be mistaken as consent.
The bars, clubs and brothels can only operate when public opinion leaves it unchallenged and the mayor of a town gives them a business permit. The mayor and town council only have to ban sex bars and deny such permits to bring much of the dirty business to an end. They refuse to do so in many places and that makes them part of the exploitation of the victims.
We know that is the true situation from the testimony of the many children that we have rescued from these houses of hell on earth. In these places that are called “foreign investment enterprises” young women and children are made to suffer for the sexual gratification of sex tourists from many nationalities.
There is outrage and cries for justice for Jennifer, because it has political connotations yet there has been no such rage and outcry over the murder and rape of Filipino children in their own homes by their own fathers and relatives. The unjust dismissal of charges by compromised prosecutors and, worse, the acquittals by judges of child rapists and sex tourists, even when evidence of guilt is clear and proven, are a disgrace. The Department of Justice and the Supreme Court administrator needs to investigate them.
Government inaction allows human slavery and trafficking of persons to continue. So long as it does we can expect more horrible crimes against sex workers in the future, many of them underage. There must be more employment with dignity for youth and educational support and opportunities for the children of rural poor.