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SAVING THE TRAFFICKED WOMEN AND CHILDREN

February 9, 2013 · 

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By Fr. Shay Cullen

The trafficking of persons especially young girls is a worldwide multi-billion dollar business that exploits several million young girls and some boys; many are under-age, sold as sex slaves into the bars and brothels of South-east Asia. Others are picked up by middle-aged paedophiles and used as live-in sex partners to satisfy perverted desires. The young exploited children are damaged for life and have almost no self esteem or dignity left and have a short life expectancy as venereal disease, TB, Hepatitis and HIV-AIDS and abortion are rampant among them. Unless saved, they die young, unknown and forgotten, the thrown-away children of our indifferent and apathetic world. How church, society and government can allow and permit this to continue all around us by a do-nothing attitude is the hypocrisy condemned by Jesus of Nazareth.

Human trafficking is the buying and selling of young girls for sexual exploitation, bringing them from place to place. It is the modern practice of slavery and is growing at a speed that is both shocking and degrading. While widespread in many countries, it is bringing the Philippines in particular into disgrace as a dominantly Catholic country promoting it as a child and family, friendly tourist destination when it is not. Then the foreign sex tourists become addicted to child sex, they go home and abuse children in their own country. It’s a global problem.

Rosaline (not her real name), is an uneducated school drop-out. She was first sexually abused when she was 14 years old by a foreign sex tourist on a beach in Olongapo City with the consent of her parents. In 2010, she was only 17 years old when she was first sold by her mother, a former sex-worker into the sex bar and hotel in Subic, Zambales.

Later, she transferred to another bar further down the national road, owned and operated by a US national. He had a 14 year old live-in partner until he was arrested when the bar was raided last 5th February, 2013. He is detained in the NBI headquarters in Manila, the preliminary hearing will be on Monday, 11th February. That child has gone into hiding. The news is out that the family of the accused are texting death threats against Rosaline.

Despite official denial of the prostitution of children, minors are being offered for sex to undercover, retired, international police officers near the Olongapo City Hall and along the National Highway at Barrio Barretto where sex bars are spreading with local government permits. Some children as young as 12 years-old were also on offer by pimps at the Olongapo City Triangle. In Angeles City, the undercover agents were offered minors also on Fields Avenue. The Subic and Olongapo Municipal government social workers are bravely struggling to try and help as many children as possible but they are overwhelmed by the runaway situation.

The undercover retired police officers visited many sex bars also and were offered young girls to be “bar fined”, that is sold for sex and the money is divided between the girl and the bar owner. It is usually handled by the Mamasan. No foreigner has ever been convicted and served sentence for trafficking despite the fact that hundreds of these foreigners own and operate sex bars all over the Philippines.

It’s a thriving business under the very noses of local authorities who issue permits to the clubs and give health clearance cards (called “night passes”) to the girls after the mandatory weekly medical check-ups at the government-run social hygiene clinic. These clinics are set up to service the sex industry that is the employer and purveyor of trafficked persons. These clinics ensure that no infected girl will work in a sex bar. The sex tourists are mostly from the UK, Australia and the USA and they are never checked for disease or are they investigated as offenders. The bars offer for a very high price, a virgin called a Cherry girl.

Based on the investigations of the undercover retired police and the Preda Foundation social workers, trafficked and minors were identified and with the help of Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy, a rescue operation was planned and successfully conducted by a joint team of agents of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) supported by Social workers of the Department of the Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and social workers from the Preda Foundation .

They rescued a total of 13 trafficked girls, at least four of them minors. Preda Foundation, founded in 1974, is a human rights protection organization based in Olongapo City that advocates the rights of victims of sex-tourism, rescues them and gives two years of healing, recovery, therapy, empowerment and education to the victims. However, it struggles to get convictions. It needs volunteer retired lawyers, prosecutors, judges to be private prosecutors, pro bono. A rising star for the rights of women and children in the Department of Justice is Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy. He is behind this case for the prosecution and will see it through to victory.

Email: shaycullen@preda.org

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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