Despite the Philippines remaining in the Tier 2 classification of the Global Trafficking in Person (GTIP) Report of the United States, global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today said that the Philippine government is still the number one human trafficker of its workers.
Migrante International Garry Martinez chairperson 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.
He said that the Aquino administration’s failure to curb human trafficking is confirmed in the continuous deployment of overseas Filipino workers to countries with deployment bans, namely, Jordan and Syria.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recently admitted that at least 100 Filipino workers are being trafficked monthly into conflict-ridden Syria even after the government imposed an Alert Level 4 because of the escalating violence in the country.
Human trafficking in Jordan
In Jordan, some 200 OFWs are still stranded at the POLO-OWWA shelter. The Philippine government imposed a deployment ban on Jordan in 2008 because of many cases of abuse and maltreatment of OFWs there. However, most of the stranded OFWs in the shelter arrived in Jordan 2010 onwards.
Martinez said that Migrante International is currently handling the cases of the OFWs. According to the workers, they are being asked to pay “overstaying” fees and their ticket fares by the POLO-OWWA. They have no means to pay because they are “runaways”, having escaped their employers due to unpaid wages and physical abuse. Some have resorted to borrowing or begging for alms to raise funds.
According to Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POEA) case officers in Jordan, overstaying fees are supposed to be shouldered by the Philippine government but “since they have all become undocumented” the government cannot pay for them.
“Of course they are undocumented, they were trafficked in Jordan despite the ban. The question now is how were they able to enter the country when a ban was in place?” said Martinez.
Some of the stranded OFWs have already left the shelter to seek work. “Ang gobyerno mismo ang nagtulak sa kanila sa mga human traffickers. Because of the PH post’s inaction, some have been forced to succumb to the lure of trafficking agents in Jordan in search for work,” he said.
Most of the OFWs have been in the POLO-OWWA for several months, while some have been stranded there for years. In 2010, DFA-OUMWA Executive Director Ricardo Endaya promised to provide tickets for the OFWs’ repatriation but two years have passed and this had not yet materialized. OFWs who were able to return home from Jordan were able to do so because they raised the funds themselves.
Section 3 of Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant Workers Act, states that the government will only allow deployment if the host country “has existing labor laws and social laws protecting the rights of workers; is a signatory to and/or a ratifier of multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of workers; and has included a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the government on the protection of the rights of OFWs.”
However, Martinez said, instead of guaranteeing this and ensuring funds to repatriate the stranded OFWs, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz sent a delegation to Jordan last May 2012 and negotiated the lifting of the deployment ban on OFWs.
“What the government should have done was to pinpoint, pursue and punish human traffickers of OFWs to Jordan. Mas inuna pa nila ang pagpapa-lift ng ban,” Martinez said.
Moreover, the migrant leader said that the Aquino administration had done nothing to address the roots of human trafficking and forced migration.
“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.”###