LAST April 22 I appeared before U.S. Congress as a witness to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations at the Subcommittee’s Hearing: Accountability and Transformation – Tier Rankings in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.
This was by special invitation of the US congressional committee whose members are highly influential in the House, and they were instrumental in getting the latest anti-trafficking law passed by the US Congress on the same day, the 22nd of April. This is a law that brings help and relief to victims of human trafficking within the United States, among other provisions.
The Philippines is being considered whether it remains on the Tier II ranking of the US State Department index of states complying with the international standards in preventing and fighting human trafficking.
Sex tourism is growing and this is directly linked to human trafficking as the girls and minors are recruited from the villages, mostly in Samar and Leyte, to supply the sexual gratification of the foreign sex tourists for a few dirty dollars. Below are the texts of most of my presentation to the congressional committee.
“Today, I will share with you my personal experience working to address the widespread situation of Human Trafficking in the Philippines. My remarks will focus on Human Trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, and the exploitation of innocent and blameless street children for begging and drug deliveries for criminal gangs. Many but not all of the child-victims of trafficking for begging, prostitution or for being drug couriers are frequently confined in jail-like conditions instead of being helped as victims. Some are as young as 8 to 12 years old. …………….
The growth of human trafficking is linked to the use of the Internet for promoting sex tourism and for transmitting images of child pornography made in the Philippines as described.
Some victims of human trafficking are subjected to several human rights violations and even forced abortion, although these are difficult to prove for the lack of medical or forensic evidence since it is done illegally and secretly but revealed by the rescued victims in therapy and in their oral narratives.
The anti-child pornography law mandates the Internet server providers (ISP) to filter and prevent such illegal images and content.
The Internet is widely used for transmitting live sex acts using children despite the anti-cyber-sex laws. The telephone companies, which have US nationals among their top 100 shareholders, are violating the law by not having these filters in place as demanded by the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 otherwise known as RA 9775. They have seemingly placed themselves above the law and it is possible they get away with it with some collusion with Philippine government officials. The Philippine National telecommunications commission is responsible for the implementation of the regulations. In addition to the anti-child pornography law, they are also allegedly violating with impunity the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995 or RA 7925 and Executive Order No. 546 issued in 1979……………
While indeed there is strong political commitment by President Benigno Aquino and especially Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, and the office of the Ombudsman to fight corruption with some notable success and much effort to address the widespread human trafficking, unfortunately the implementation of this by police and prosecutors results in a very low arrest and conviction rate. In 15 years, only 150 convictions were achieved. This places the Philippines on Tier II of the TIP report.
There is corruption by some of the prosecution and judiciary. Besides the slow pace of the judicial process, the lowering of charges of human trafficking to child abuse allows many foreign suspects of trafficking to escape………………………
While the Philippine government is striving to address the problem of human trafficking and improve the record of convictions, much remains to be done.
The efforts of the US State Department are lauded but reform of the police and judiciary in the Philippines is of utmost importance. Local governments that issue permits and licenses to sex bars that take in trafficked persons must be restrained, and sex trafficking must be greatly reduced. Children trafficked must have greater protection, shelter, and assistance. Suspects must be prosecuted in a robust mannerwith integrity.”