OFW victims of human trafficking picket DFA

Victim of trafficking in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia today trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs to urge the government to address rampant human trafficking in the country.

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson and Migrante Partylist second nominee, 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.

Martinez said that human trafficking of OFWs has become more disturbing because most of the cases they are handling of present were facilitated by recruitment agencies and their foreign counterparts that are duly-licensed by the government through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and other concerned agencies.

 Cosmetic reforms

He added that despite the Aquino administration’s “cosmetic reforms,” such as the signing of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, no landmark cases of human trafficking have been resolved in the country. The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act upgraded the Philippines to Tier 1 in the US Department’s latest Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Report – meaning that the country had supposedly complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

Martinez said that the Aquino administration’s failure in curbing human trafficking is confirmed in the most recent cases of the Saudi 400+ and the Malaysia 30, and the ongoing fight of OFW victims of human trafficking in Florida and the Grand Isle Shipyard workers in Louisiana.

“These cases demonstrate the complicity of some government agencies in human trafficking activities, as well as the Philippine government’s toothless and ineffective laws and mechanisms in stopping human trafficking.”

In the cases of trafficking to Malaysia and US, for instance, the victims were either direct or agency hires, all had approved job contracts that went through concerned government agencies here and abroad. “All concerned government agencies are just as accountable as the traffickers because they were given license to operate or receive job orders by the Philippine government.”

Also, the Philippine government has no mechanism to take action against accomplices of Manila-based recruiters. “Kaya ang mangyayari, kahit na human trafficking na ang kaso sa ibang bansa, bababa sa kaso ng simpleng illegal recruitment dito sa atin na mas administrative lang ang nature ng penalty.”

 State-sponsored trafficking

Martinez also called on the Philippine government to “review and retract onerous bilateral agreements and contracts with host countries that legitimize trafficking of OFWs”.

He cited bilateral agreements such as the Saudi-PH Unified Contract and the PH-Korean governments’ agreement on the Employment Permit Contract. “Both agreements virtually allow for the violation of OFWs’ rights per contract. This is a more grave and unacceptable type of trafficking because it is ‘state-sponsored’.”

 “Stop the Traffic!”

Martinez said the Migrante International and Migrante Partylist is part of a broad global anti-trafficking network called “Stop the Traffic!” which will be launched on March 17, death anniversary of OFW icon Flor Contemplacion. ###