Despite the US State Department’s upgrade of the Philippines from the Tier 2 Special Watch List to Tier 2 on its 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, global alliance Migrante International and US-based National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) today said that the Philippine government is still the number one human trafficker of its workers.
In a press conference, Migrante International secretary-general Gina Esguerra said that human trafficking is still rampant and operating in record-high levels in the Philippines yet the accountability rate of perpetrators and their coddlers in government remain very low.
The groups presented cases of human trafficking of Filipinos in the United States, Malaysia and Jordan, namely, the Sandakan 175 in Malaysia; Los Angeles 11, Florida 15 and Arizona 34 in the US; and, Jordan 50++. (Fact sheets attached)
Esguerra said that these cases demonstrate the complicity of some government agencies in human trafficking activities.
“In the US, the victims, direct- or agency-hires, all had approved job contracts that went through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)”. Esguerra said that concerned government agencies are just as accountable as the Manila-based traffickers because “they were given license to operate”. She also said that the government has no mechanism to take action against the accomplices of the Manila-based recruiters in the US.
She cited that case of the LA 11 who were hired by Manila-based ADMAN to work in Virginia, USA for USD$7.25 per hour but ended up working for a hotel in Mississipi for USD$4.75 per cleaned room. When they got to the US, they had no choice but to accept the employment because they had run out of money and were indebted in the Philippines.
“Ang sistema kasi ng human traffickers sa ganitong mga kaso, kapag na-deploy na nila ang mga OFW, nagpapalit sila ng pangalan bago pa man sila ireklamo. Ang problema naman sa POEA, alam naman nilang ganito na ang modus operandi hindi pa rin nila nasusuplong kaya nakakapanloko pa ulit ang mga ito. Ang masaklap pa, dahil matagal na ngang kalakaran, malamang sa hindi ay may mga kakuntsaba na ang mga sindikatong ito sa loob ng gobyerno.”
On March 23, because of their collective action and the support of the Filipino community, the LA 11 won their case against ADMAN via resolution released by the POEA ordering the cancellation of the agency’s license and the disqualification of all its officers and directors to engage in any recruitment operations. The LA 11, however, have yet to receive their claims.
Esguerra said that state-sponsored human trafficking is more blatant in the cases of the Sandakan 175 and Jordan 50++.
The Sandakan 175 were all bound for Jordan to work as domestic helpers. A deployment ban is presently in place in Jordan.
They arrived in Zamboanga on March 2 from different places around the country. From Zamboanga, all 175 of them travelled by boat to another island where they were accosted by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The CIDG told them that they were to go back with them but they were surprised to find themselves loaded in a speed boat and brought to a swampy island. From there, they boarded a truck and were transported to Sandakan, Malaysia where they were eventually arrested by the Malaysian police because they had no passports or travel documents. “Was the CIDG party to the trafficking of the Sandakan 175?” Esguerra said.
In Jordan, Migrante had earlier reported cases of “state-sponsored human trafficking” wherein embassy posts were involved in the authentication of employment certificates of OFWs despite the deployment ban. The OFWs have been stranded in the POLO-OWWA in Jordan, awaiting repatriation, after they had run away from employers who had maltreated them.
“Trafficking of Filipino workers cannot be stopped and justice for the victims will not be realized unless the government takes drastic action against the recruiters, and most especially their coddlers in government. And ultimately, the Philippine government will not be able to put a stop to human trafficking until it decisively addresses the root causes of forced migration that make our workers more desperate and vulnerable to trafficking syndicates.” ###