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Typhoon-hit areas watched for traffickers

December 28, 2013 · 

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By Niña P. Calleja

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 am | Friday, December 13th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) has been directed to closely monitor areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” following reports of syndicates preying on the typhoon survivors, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.

De Lima joined church leaders and hundreds of their members on Thursday at a prayer rally against human trafficking at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

“It is in the Yolanda-devastated that many of our women and children have become very vulnerable because of their hardships and sufferings. These areas become fertile breeding grounds for the syndicates preying on the vulnerabilities of their fellow human beings,” De Lima told reporters at a briefing before the start of the prayer rally.

De Lima said the surge of trafficking cases in the disaster areas was highly expected, and the IACAT has been tasked to monitor the processing and evacuation centers in the typhoon-stricken areas and “validate certain reported incidents of attempted or actual human trafficking.”

Combat the grassroots

The prayer rally in Manila was part of a series of prayer rallies with the aim of uniting people against trafficking. Last Dec. 1, a prayer call was held in the Ayala Center in Cebu, and another rally was held in Davao City yesterday.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said it was the first time that different churches in partnership with the government had gathered for a prayer rally against trafficking.

“We are doing this in the context of prayer to raise awareness and combat trafficking in the grassroots. After this, we will go home convinced that whoever supports human dignity will support the campaign to end human trafficking,” Pabillo said.

According to the 2013 US Trafficking in Persons Report released last June, “people are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers, including Manila, Cebu, Angeles City and increasingly in cities in Mindanao as well as within other urban areas and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerto Galera and Surigao.”

In a related development, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday warned against South Korean agents in the Philippines who are engaged in illegal marriage brokering and the trafficking of Filipino entertainers to the North Asian country.

In a public advisory, the DFA said the Philippine embassy in Seoul raised two issues during a forum in Ansan City on Nov. 27 organized by the Institute of Globalization and Multicultural Studies of Hanyang University.

Korean prosecutors and immigration officials, and representatives of embassies and foreign community groups were invited to discuss the challenges of multiculturalism in South Korean society.

As one of the forum speakers, Consul Aian Caringal, second secretary at the Philippine embassy in Seoul, said Filipino women lured into Korea with marriage arrangements or to work there as entertainers, end up as prostitutes.

Entertainers

“Most of the serious cases were already problematic from the start as the Filipino women either went through illegal marriage brokers or were trafficked to Korea as entertainers. As soon as the women reach Korea, their passports and other personal documents are taken from them by the employers, husbands or in-laws. Some are not even allowed to use or own a cell phone,” Caringal said.

The DFA said some of the female entertainers hired by unscrupulous promoters and talent managers to Korea end up working as prostitutes for less than half of the salary promised to them. The hiring in most cases is not processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Caringal recounted the case of a Vietnamese bride murdered by her Korean husband just eight days after she arrived in Korea in July 2010. The victim did not know that her husband was suffering from a mental disorder.

Organized marriage

Marriage brokering is considered illegal in the Philippines under Republic Act No. 6955, or the Anti-Mail Order Bride Law of 1990, which prohibits the business of organizing or facilitating marriages between Filipino women and foreign men in the Philippines.But the illegal act persists despite the physical and emotional abuse the women go through, the DFA said.De Lima noted improvements in the human trafficking situation in the country since 2010 when the country was given Tier 2 ranking in the US Trafficking in Persons report, from its previous Tier 3 rank.

But the country’s goal to be granted Tier 1 rank was an “uphill battle” because of government’s failure to have a complete database on the actual human trafficking cases in the Philippines, she said. end

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