Press Statement

October 12, 2022

On October 10-11, the Philippine Government’s record in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was evaluated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, almost a decade since the last review in 2012. 

Migrante International expresses grave concern for the countless human rights violations committed under the Duterte Administration– extrajudicial killings under it’s Drug War Campaign, its relentless and vicious campaign attacking and targeting critics, progressive organizations inside and outside of the country and human rights defenders that is being continued under the new administration of President Marcos Jr. with the recent killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid and the recent arbitrary arrests of trade unionists Kara Taggaoa and Larry Valbuena. We echo the urgent call to the UN to conduct an independent inquiry and investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

As the International Covenant includes the right to freedom from slavery, Migrante International submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee a report highlighting the problem of human trafficking among Filipino migrants especially women.  

Migrante International raises the concern of the Philippine government’s neglect of human trafficking victims among Filipino migrants in it’s submitted report, citing the harrowing experiences of 52 Filipino women and girls who were trafficked to Syria as domestic workers and who sought assistance from the Philippine embassy. 

After arriving at the Philippine Embassy in Syria, embassy officials confiscated their cellphones, preventing them from contacting their families in the Philippines and informing them of their conditions. Based on thewomen’s accounts, the women have been asking embassy officials for help to return to the Philippines but were left waiting in the embassy’s shelter for a period of 1-2 years, while some of them were “returned” to recruitment agencies that were also abusive towards them. Many of them also experienced being detained in jails in Syria and were not visited or assisted by Philippine officials. 

Desperate to be released from their apparent detention in the government shelter and out of reach from their families, they mustered the courage to confront the Philippine Ambassador to Syria to retrieve their cellphones, created a video of their situation and plea for help which went viral in social media. The case of the Syria 52 exposes the grave neglect and inhumane treatment they faced under the watch of Philippine government and is emblematic of the plight of Filipino victims of human trafficking. 

The Filipino women continue to demand justice, legal, financial, livelihood and medical assistance from the Philippine government as victims of human trafficking.

Migrante International is calling on the Marcos Jr. administration to carry out its recommendations regarding human trafficking: 

1)  Conduct a thorough evaluation of all active and pending cases of distressed migrants reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs and all its Foreign Service Posts abroad, especially of Filipino migrant women who are under the care of the Philippine Government’s temporary shelters overseas and determine cases of human trafficking; 

2) Publish annual report of documented human trafficking cases involving Filipino migrants including data on age, gender, province in the Philippines, industry trafficked into, and the efforts to investigate and prosecute their trafffickers and recruiters; 

3) Develop and publish clear guidelines, protocols and processes that personnel of Philippine Foreign Service Posts must undertake in identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking overseas; and 

4) Increase the number of trained welfare officers in all Foreign Service Posts and conduct regular trainings for all personnel on combatting human trafficking and supporting victims.