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Philippine News Digest 104

March 16, 2007 · 

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Contents:
-‘Bantay-Bugaw’ in Olongapo, Bontoc to protect women, kids
-DSWD rescues 185 trafficked women, kids in Eastern Visayas
-Left-wing activist gunned down in Digos City

‘Bantay-Bugaw’ in Olongapo, Bontoc to protect women, kids
by: Tonette Orejas,
Philippine Daily Inquirer
03/12/07

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — Olongapo City in Zambales and Bontoc in Mountain Province are the new sites of a community-based quick response program aimed at punishing recruiters preying on girls and women for sexual and labor exploitation.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) is replicating the Bantay-Bugaw (Traffickers Watch) project in those areas starting March 14.

This came after the same project proved successful in Calbayog City in Western Samar, Zamboanga City and Quezon City since 2004, CATW-AP executive director Jean Enriquez said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Enriquez said the international coalition, which has maintained a consultative status under the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1989, has undertaken the project to implement the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9208) down to the communities.

She said the project engages local governments, barangay councils, the Philippine National Police, government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Justice, and nongovernment organizations.

The larger challenge, Enriquez said, was helping law enforcers and prosecutors focus on traffickers than on victims.

“Much of the time, it is the victim who gets arrested and prosecuted, not the exploiter. We are trying to see a shift,” she said.

The law imposes a penalty of life imprisonment on traffickers.

Traffickers are not total strangers in communities as they are either residents or have relatives there, Enriquez said.

Blood relations are cited as a reason for the hesitance to report or not cases of trafficking, she said.

In the 13 pilot villages that were mostly urban, CATW-AP saw significant increases in the number of reported cases.

In Barangay Carmen in Calbayog, for instance, the 40 cases reported in 2004 shot up to 90 by the end of 2006.

Enriquez said the system works in the villages by informing residents about how traffickers work and by encouraging them to report suspects to the barangay council.

The council, on the other hand, demands documents of job orders or contracts, logs these and verifies their authenticity with appropriate agencies.

Verified information on fake recruiters helps prevent trafficking, Enriquez said.

The police also step in to arrest suspects or rescue victims. The matter also proceeds at the level of the prosecutors.

The project will be implemented in Olongapo City because many girls and women from Samar and other provinces are brought in local bars there for prostitution.

It has reached out to Bontoc, the capital town of Mt. Province, to stop the trafficking of indigenous women for prostitution and domestic servitude.

DSWD rescues 185 trafficked women, kids in Eastern Visayas
by: Ven S. Labro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
03/14/07

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — Women and children from poor families in rural areas remain vulnerable to human traffickers who lure their victims with false promises of good jobs and better lives in major urban centers especially Metro Manila, a National Statistical Coordination Board report shows.

The report notes a 22.2 percent increase in the number of trafficking victims from Eastern Visayas alone — 132 — who were rescued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the region compared to 2005’s 108.

Eastern Visayas is home to some of the poorest provinces in the country, among these Northern Samar, Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Eastern Samar.

By province, 57 of the victims come from Northern Samar, 55 from Samar, 11 from Leyte, five from Biliran and four from Eastern Samar.

Aside from the 132 Eastern Visayas natives, the DSWD Region 8 also aided 53 other victims of human trafficking from other regions such as Regions 10 and 11 who were rescued in Eastern Visayas. This brought to 185 the total number of victims aided by DSWD-Eastern Visayas in 2006.

Around 75 percent of the victims were female and 54.6 percent were children aged 13 to 17 years old.

Despite the persistence of the problem, Evelyn Gañas, office-in-charge of the Crisis Intervention Unit of the DSWD regional office here, disclosed that the Alliance of Networks for Assistance to Strandees (Angkas), a pilot project of DSWD-8, had helped the agency’s anti-trafficking efforts.

Although Angkas was organized in 2003 initially to serve stranded passengers at the ports in Allen, Northern Samar, the DSWD tapped the group to identifying and rescue trafficking victims.

In 2005, Angkas began operating at the port of Liloan, Southern Leyte. The Liloan and Allen ports are used as ferry terminals for commuters plying the Pan-Philippine Highway from Mindanao to Luzon and vice-versa.

But Gañas said that human smugglers might be using other routes to evade arrest due to their intensified anti-trafficking efforts. From 272 victims rescued in Eastern Visayas in 2005 (whether they hail from the region or from other regions), only 185 were rescued in 2006.

She said they are putting up an anti-trafficking task force in the port of Bato in Leyte, a possible jump-off point to Cebu or other places for vessels coming from Mindanao.

The DSWD in Eastern Visayas was identified as a pilot area for implementation of Republic Act 9208, which aims to protect persons, especially women and children from sexual exploitation and forced labor, with funding coming from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Left-wing activist gunned down in Digos City
The Philippine STAR
03/03/07

Unidentified gunmen fatally shot a left-wing union activist yesterday, police said – the latest in a spate of unexplained killings condemned by the US and the European Union.

Renato “Atong” Torrecampo Pacaide, 53, from the left-wing group Anakpawis, died of a gunshot wound to the head in southern Digos city, said police Chief Superintendent Geary Barias.

Anakpawis, or “toiling masses,” is part of Bayan, the country’s biggest left-wing alliance. The Anakpawis party, which espouses Marxist views, has one member in the House of Representatives.

Pacaide’s daughter, who was with him when he was shot by one of two men on a motorcycle, was unhurt, Barias said.

“We view with serious concern this latest incident, and I have directed the (police commander) to look into the case and see to it that no stone will be left unturned,” he said.

The killing took place at 11 a.m. near the victim’s house along Lim Extension and Rizal Streets, just 100 meters away from the police station in Digos City, Davao del Sur. Police said Pacaide sustained four gunshot wounds.

Some relatives and colleagues of Pacaide told police he was organizing a labor union action against a planned layoff of 80 workers from a local company, regional police chief Andres Caro said.

Aside from Anakpawis, Pacaide was also an active member of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Davao de Sur, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

He said that police were drawing sketches of suspects based on witnesses’ descriptions, and that the gunmen had fled after the shooting.

US and European embassies have lamented a slow pace of investigation into the killings of left-wing activists, after a UN investigator and a local inquiry last week blamed most of the killings on soldiers.

The military has denied involvement in extrajudicial killings, saying the number of deaths is inflated.

Military officials have alleged that activists have links to communist rebels, who have waged a 39-year-old urban-based insurgency.

Local human rights group Karapatan says more than 800 activists have been killed since President Arroyo took power in 2001. Police say 116 activists have been slain.

“Our cops should take their investigation seriously because this is a serious government concern,” Barias said. – AP, Edith Regalado [End]

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