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Philippine News Digest 110

April 23, 2007 · 


-General admits girl killed in clash no child warrior
-‘Chairman’ reveals seedy world of trafficking
-Filipino sex prisoner thought she was in France

General admits girl killed in clash no child warrior
By Christine Avendaño
Last updated 04:39am (Mla time) 04/26/2007

IT LOOKS like the 9-year-old girl killed in a clash between soldiers and New People’s Army rebels in Compostela Valley was no child warrior after all, the military said Wednesday.

Army Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza, 101st Infantry Brigade commander, said there were “very strong indications” that Grecil Galacio was the victim, after she was caught in the crossfire.

While Holganza said he would readily apologize to Grecil’s family should it be finally established that she was not a combatant, he saw no reason why his soldiers should be held accountable, considering they were on a military operation.

Grecil was killed on March 31 during what the military said was a “legitimate encounter.” She was hit in the head and elbow.

The girl’s father, Gregorio, a “tuba” gatherer, said the last time he saw his daughter alive was when she was running toward a river for a dip. At the time, two NPA women guerrillas were also bathing there.

Holganza previously said Grecil had been seen carrying a long firearm–a claim disputed by her family.

An earlier Inquirer story noted that Grecil was about as tall as an M-16 A2 rifle–which is 3 feet 4 inches long–and that if she had slung it over her shoulder, she would have been dragging it.

One soldier was also killed in the clash.

‘Chairman’ reveals seedy world of trafficking
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/04/01 23:01:55 GMT

The BBC’s Asia correspondent Andrew Harding has a rare encounter with a conscience-stricken Philippines gangland boss who runs a network trafficking underaged girls to work in brothels. He agreed to talk on condition of anonymity.

He looks like a bank manager, on holiday. Grey hair, steel-rimmed glasses, polo shirt and paunch.

We have arranged to meet in a hotel lobby, and I am late. His two bodyguards are sitting by the door – pistols tucked none too subtly under their shirts.

The “chairman” has been trafficking girls for 30 years now

Later, I find out that the guards are actually off-duty policemen – doing a little freelance work for the local underworld boss. Welcome to the Philippines.

The boss is introduced to me by my local contact as “the chairman” – and half-jokingly “the underworld king”. At this, the chairman smiles tightly – and it is hard to tell if he is flattered or angry.

I am not sure why he has agreed to talk to me. But as we all squeeze into the lift on the way up to my room, he mentions his conscience. Apparently it has been troubling him.

For 30 years now, the chairman has been trafficking girls. He used to be a police sergeant, but says he got kicked off the force for adultery. Twice.

His second wife worked in a brothel. One thing led to another, and soon he was travelling around the countryside, recruiting children.

He is disarmingly open about all this – explaining how he lies to the families, buys the girls, and then forces them into brothels.

No-one is sure about the figures. But it is thought there could be 100,000 Philippine children involved in the local sex trade.

Others are forced into domestic work or mining or sugar plantations, or shipped abroad.

They are victims of a trafficking empire that has become one of the world’s most lucrative criminal industries.

Filipino sex prisoner thought she was in France
By Gemma Luz Corotan
Last updated 00:24am (Mla time) 04/26/2007

SHE is only 17 but has the knowing look and corrupted innocence of someone much older.

Thin and frail, she laughs easily. But it is a laughter of cynicism and of one bitterly disappointed with a world from which she expected much, and which she will never see quite the same way again.

Let’s call her Maria. She and three others like her recently returned to the Philippines after being rescued from hell.

Three months ago, Maria landed in war-torn Ivory Coast in the continent of Africa and thought she was in France–just one of many unsuspecting Filipino women and children who challenge and cross prohibited borders to enter the lair of the world’s most vicious trafficking and prostitution syndicates.

It was only a month after she was sold repeatedly to countless men that she thought to ask a Lebanese customer: “Where am I really?”

She was told that she was in Cote d’Ivoire, not in France, but in West Africa.

Maria is one of 26 young Filipino women rescued by an antitrafficking team from the Anti-Slavery International, Interpol and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from bars in a red-light district in Abidjan.

The team coordinated with the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc., a nongovernment organization working to help Filipino trafficking victims.

The club owners–a Filipino and a Chinese national who kept Maria and three other girls as sex prisoners for hire in a bar and brothel–were convicted and ordered by the court to pay damages.

“It is the first successful conviction of international human trafficking involving Filipinos,” said Ma. Cecilia Flores Oebanda, executive director of the Visayan Forum Foundation.

But this is small comfort to Maria, who still remembers the physical abuse she endured in the hands of her captors.

On her first day after a grueling flight that passed through Dubai, tired and confused by the sea of black faces around her, in what she thought was Europe, she was sold to her first customer, a French soldier.

She would be sold and resold 80 times more in the course of three months.

“We were forced to have sex with customers even if we were menstruating. One time, I was sold to an Indian national who took nude pictures of me and a video while we were having sex. I was also forced to have an abortion,” Maria said.



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