Cablegate: Philippines: Fifth Annual Anti-Trafficking In

Published: Tue 1 Mar 2005 08:25 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
E. 04 MANILA 5428
F. 04 STATE 273089
G. 04 MANILA 0996
(U) This cable is Sensitive But Unclassified -- please
handle accordingly.
1. (U) Mission,s fifth annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP)
report follows below. The report covers the period from
March 2004 through March 2005. Point of contact (POC) is
Political Officer David C. Maness, ManessDC@State.Gov, (632)
528-6300 x5165, fax (632) 523-1195. Rank of TIP action
officer is FS-04. Estimated completion time for report:
FS-MC officer: 1 hour; FS-01 officers: 10 hours; 04 officers:
115 hours.
2. (SBU) The answers below are keyed to the format contained
in Ref E, Para 18:
A. The Philippines is an origin, transit point, and to a
lesser extent, destination country for internationally
trafficked men, women and children. Trafficking also occurs
within the country's borders. Reliable estimates of the
current extent or magnitude of the problem are not available,
but the estimates of various NGOs and government agencies
range from 300,000-400,000 women and 100,000 children
trafficked internally, into Southeast Asia and
beyond from the Philippines.
Aside from working in the commercial sex industry, many
trafficked persons work as domestic servants, as well as in
unsafe and exploitative industries such as forced labor. In
2004, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
provided services to 162 women victims of illegal
recruitment, 85 victims of involuntary prostitution, and 85
victims of trafficking. DSWD assisted a total of 373 victims
of sexual exploitation, 333 of child labor, 54 of illegal
recruitment, and 135 of trafficking. The Trade Union
Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which tracks
labor-related data nationwide, recorded a total of 52
trafficking incidents involving 266 victims from January 2004
to January 2005.
Sources of information involved in the preparation of this
report include the following government agencies: the
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); the Department of
Justice (DOJ);
the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); the
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); the Philippine
Center for Transnational Crime (PCTC); the National
Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW); and the
Presidential Anti-Illegal Recruitment Task Force (PAIRTF).
The following NGOs also provided input: the American Center
for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS); the Coalition
Against Trafficking in Women ) Asia Pacific (CATW-AP); End
Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of
Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT); the Visayan Forum
Foundation (VFF); The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines
(TUCP), and the International Justice Mission/Philippines
(IJM). Some information stemmed from media reports.
Women face a far higher potential of becoming victims of
trafficking than men, and girls are more at risk than boys.
Trafficking in children is generally internal: children and
young women from poor farming communities in Visayas (the
Central Philippines) and Mindanao are brought to major urban
centers and employed as factory workers, domestic helpers or
prostitutes. Victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation
are generally girls, with ages ranging from 7 to 16 years
old. Ethnic minorities, migrant workers, and other socially
marginalized groups are more at risk than other groups due to
the high prevalence of poverty.
B. Trafficking of persons usually takes place from poor,
rural areas throughout the Philippines to major urban areas
within the country, especially Metro Manila and Cebu. Often,
foreign trafficking rings bring the victims to destinations
throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and
South Africa. International organized crime gangs also
traffic persons from mainland China through the Philippines
to third country destinations. Filipino overseas performing
artists (OPAs) in Japan numbered 70,628, the vast majority of
them women. Evidence suggests that a majority of OPAs are
forced to or voluntarily enter into prostitution. Less
frequently, the Philippines is the final destination point or
transit point for persons trafficked from China.
C. Since last year, there have been no measurable
significant changes in the direction, extent, or nature of
trafficking in the Philippines. Endemic poverty, a high
unemployment and underemployment rate, a cultural propensity
towards migration, a weak rule of law environment, and the
sex tourism industry all contribute to the continuation of
trafficking. After the passage of major anti-trafficking
legislation in May 2003, the government also took the
important step of assigning four prosecutors from the
Department of Justice to focus specifically on trafficking
cases in August 2004. The Government of Japan's expected
implementation of new visa rules regarding
visas8 on March 15, 2005 should cut down on the issuance of
such visas and, thus, the incidence of trafficking involving
Filipinos working in Japan.
D. Several government agencies maintain their own separate
databases, but many of these do not focus exclusively on
trafficking. The Philippine Center on Transnational Crime
(PCTC), established in 1999, collects information on
transnational crime activities, but its records are not
comprehensive. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO),
an attached agency of the DFA, has developed a database to
monitor legal problems involving Filipinos overseas. The
system is not restricted to trafficking and generates
relevant reports on other cases such as domestic violence and
human smuggling. The CFO plans to integrate this information
into the shared government database, but, as of February
2005, this project is not yet complete.
Following the anti-trafficking law signed in May 2003, the
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has
conducted an extensive national anti-trafficking in person's
publicity campaign.
E. The Philippines is only occasionally a destination point
for internationally trafficked individuals. Reports indicate
trafficking from China, South Korea, and Russia of
individuals to engage in prostitution. Internal trafficking
generally includes individuals from the Visayas and Mindanao
regions to major metro areas to work as domestic servants,
small-factory workers, in the drug trade, and sometimes in
the commercial sex industry as bar girls or prostitutes.
Many are victims of traffickers from their local areas.
Victims are often subject to violence, threats, debt bondage,
and withholding of documents.
F. Traffickers most often target the multitudes of workers
seeking overseas and urban employment. (Approximately 8.6
million Filipinos work overseas, which works out to about 10
percent of the population and 20 percent of the workforce.
An estimated 10 percent of GDP comes from these workers,
remittances.) The most common recruits are girls and young
women aged 13 to 30, from rural areas, and mainly from
impoverished families. Many girls from ethnic minorities
aged 10 to 15 also end up as commercial sex workers.
Recruiters generally seek victims with a group of friends or
relatives from the same neighborhood or village, providing a
false sense of security. Traffickers are often private
employment recruiters who cooperate with organized crime
rings. The most common method to approach victims is to
promise respectable and lucrative jobs with good benefits
such as free board, lodging, transportation, and cash
advances. Parents and guardians are often supportive,
believing that work abroad is the key to ascending the
socio-economic ladder. Traffickers use fake travel
documents, falsified permits, and tampered birth certificates.
G. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration
frequently speak out in public about the evils of trafficking
and the efforts of the government to combat TIP. They have
stated there is zero tolerance by the government of TIP in
any way, although the government sought to protect access by
"legitimate" Filipino entertainers to Japan and/or to delay
implementation of tougher GOJ visa regulations. In August
2004, the government took the important step of assigning
four prosecutors from the DOJ to focus specifically on
trafficking cases more fully to utilize the landmark 2003
anti-TIP legislation. The law codifies stiffer penalties
against traffickers in women and children and against users
or buyers of prostituted victims. Under Republic Act (R.A.)
9208, trafficking violators face a penalty from six years to
life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P5
million (8,900 USD - 89,000 USD). Trafficking is considered
a non-bailable offense. The law also entitles victims and
survivors to counseling, temporary shelter, health care,
legal assistance, and access to the government's witness
protection program. Prosecutors have already filed charges
and are pursuing six cases of alleged trafficking. Courts
have yet to render any verdicts, however.
In coordination with DOLE, the DFA takes the lead in
protecting the rights of migrant workers at Philippine
embassies abroad. Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs),
the operating arm and overseas representative of DOLE, is
under the supervision of the Chief of Mission or the
Philippine Ambassador. Over forty labor attaches serve at
thirty-three POLOs around the world, located at Philippine
embassies and consulates. Posts with a high number of
overseas Filipino workers (OFW), such as Hong Kong,
Singapore, Jeddah, Dhahrain/Al-Khobar, Dubai, Kuwait, and
London, employ more than one labor attach to deal with the
large caseloads. OFWs may report contract violations or
abuse to POLOs who, in turn, refer the cases to the DFA or
DOLE. POLOs provide access to rescue and repatriation,
custodial and legal assistance, temporary shelter, and
medical aid.
DSWD is responsible for the social reintegration of victims
of trafficking once they return home. It operates 13
substitute homes for distressed women through the support of
Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI), a non-profit
organization assisting those in need. Eight social workers
are deployed (one each) to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei,
Tokyo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City, and Riyadh to provide
psycho-social counseling to OFWs in distress, and work in
conjunction with POLOs. A social welfare attach in Malaysia
coordinates with the local government in rescuing and
repatriating victims of trafficking and other forms of abuse.
While government agencies have undertaken extensive efforts
worldwide to fight trafficking, inadequate funding is a
chronic problem throughout the government in all fields.
Anti-trafficking resources focus primarily on prevention and
protection for overseas Filipino workers. The strongest
efforts exist in the areas of helping to prevent persons from
becoming victims, repatriating victims in destination
countries, and reintegrating them into Philippine society
upon their return home.
H. The government adamantly opposes trafficking in persons
and senior officials have made clear that the government
would never condone official complicity in such trafficking.
There is no known involvement by senior officials in such
trafficking. However, in this culture of corruption,
anecdotal evidence suggests that some government officials
(such as customs officers, border guards, immigration
officials, and local police) sometimes receive bribes from
traffickers or otherwise assist in their operations. The
government launched a major anti-corruption drive in 2004-05,
which has resulted in numerous prosecutions, including of
several senior military and civilian officials, but not in
the area of trafficking-related corruption per se.
In September 2004, the government transferred responsibility
for issuing OPA accreditations from the controversial
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)
to the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA). POEA
tightened the process for Artist Accreditation Certificate
(AAC) issuance by only allowing licensed recruitment agencies
(certified by POEA) to submit applications. Further changes
included the following:
-- Requiring a booking confirmation (a job offer from Japan
or other overseas destination country) before accreditation;
-- Using biometrics during the audition to authenticate the
performer's identity;
-- Requiring that Japanese promoters make an escrow deposit
with the POEA to cover claims by entertainers with a
legitimate grievance;
-- Increasing information dissemination and TIP training for
licensing agencies and entertainers going overseas.
As anticipated, the Government of Japan has begun to
implement tightened entertainer visa requirements intended to
reduce the number of exploited Filipino entertainers in
Japan. While no reliable estimates are yet available, the
changes will likely result in a significant reduction in OPA
I. The government's ability to address the problem remains
limited by inadequate funding throughout the government,
including for police. Corruption in the government and the
general ineffectiveness of the judicial system are also
factors that impede the government's ability to prosecute
trafficking cases. Many government agencies have not yet
fully implemented the 2003 anti-trafficking law due to lack
of training and orientation on the scope and magnitude of the
problem. While the government does allocate resources
through the DSWD to aid victims, funding is insufficient and
national and international NGOs and other foreign donors
(including the USG) must complement official government
J. The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT)
began in May 2003 to implement the then-new anti-trafficking
law and to coordinate government policy regarding
trafficking. The IACAT is active, although there are
complaints that it meets too infrequently and does not have
staff of its own. The government is still in the process of
developing a central database to monitor trafficking-related
activities. Government officials involved in anti-TIP
activities meet regularly with concerned NGOs, foreign
donors, embassies, and regional and international
organizations to share information and assessments, but all
agree solid data about the extent of the problem remains
difficult to obtain.
K. Prostitution is illegal, but remains widespread. Many
prostitutes work independently in small brothels rather than
in prominent entertainment clubs. Hostesses, referred to as
"guest relations officers" (GROs), sometimes engage in
illegal prostitution, though they are usually barred from
leaving an establishment with a customer. The government
requires GROs to undergo frequent health checks.
An anti-prostitution bill remains under consideration in the
House of Representatives. It would punish those involved in
the industry, such as pimps and brothel owners, while
decriminalizing those exploited in the prostitution industry.
The bill states that women and children who engage in
prostitution can be victims and should be freed from criminal
liability. It also states that people exploited in
prostitution are entitled to support, protection, and may
seek legal redress.
3. (SBU) The answers below are keyed to the format contained
in Ref E, Para 19:
A. The government considers trafficking a serious issue and
is actively engaged in combating trafficking.
B. Several cabinet level agencies and sub-agencies are
actively involved in combating trafficking in the
Philippines. The IACAT coordinates, monitors, and oversees
the implementation of the law, and serves as an umbrella
organization to coordinate anti-TIP efforts. IACAT is
co-chaired by the Secretary of the DOJ and the Secretary of
the DSWD. Other member agencies include DFA, DOLE, POEA,
NCRFW, and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Three NGOs
representing women, children and overseas Filipino workers
are also part of the IACAT.
In July 2004, the government created the Presidential
Anti-Illegal Recruitment Task Force (PAIRTF) to develop and
execute strategies to deter illegal recruiters, mainly by
focusing on international airports and other points of
departure. The PAIRTF's mandate is also to ensure a greater
number of prosecutions of illegal recruiters, syndicates, and
protectors by directing relevant government agencies to
investigate and prosecute cases.
PAIRTF officials arrested three suspects allegedly involved
in a transnational trafficking in persons case in October
2004. Officials were able in the course of the investigation
to rescue three Filipinas from forced sexual servitude in
Malaysia. The victims have returned to the Philippines and
filed a complaint against their Filipino recruiters.
Various other government agencies' efforts in
anti-trafficking are outlined below:
--The DFA extends assistance to victims of trafficking abroad
and oversees the voluntary repatriation of victims. It acts
as the central coordinating unit for all bilateral, regional
and multilateral efforts. The DFA's Commission on Filipinos
Overseas (CFO) provides pre-departure orientation and
counseling services and offers liaison services to Filipinos
overseas with the help of other government and private
agencies. The CFO also coordinates with the Bureau of
Immigration (BI) regarding the apprehension of violators;
--The DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers
Affairs (OUMWA) addresses trafficking issues involving
migrant workers. It works in conjunction with other
government agencies, overseas workers, their families, NGOs,
and religious groups to deliver assistance to Philippine
--DSWD focuses on the protection of victims. It implements
rehabilitative and protective programs for trafficked
persons. It also provides temporary shelter to trafficked
persons and abused women in coordination with NGOs;
--DOLE is responsible for coordinating the government
campaign against illegal recruitment and for maintaining
records of overseas Filipino workers. It ensures the strict
implementation and compliance with the rules and guidelines
on the employment of persons locally and overseas. It also
monitors, documents, and reports cases of trafficking in
persons involving employers and labor recruiters;
--The OWWA, an attached agency of DOLE, has responsibility
for protecting overseas workers and their dependents. It
provides counseling and legal assistance programs to overseas
workers and conducts information dissemination and awareness
campaigns. Officers of DOLE assigned as Labor Attaches at
Philippine Embassies spend much of their time assisting
overseas workers. In countries with large numbers of OFWs,
an OWWA officer also often serves as Assistant Labor Attach;
--DOJ is responsible for protecting the rights of victims of
trafficking and prosecuting traffickers. It also offers free
legal assistance for trafficked persons in coordination with
the DSWD, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and
NGOs. Four prosecutors specifically focus on trafficking
--Under the DOJ, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI),
the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Police
Commission (NAPOLCOM) work to identify, investigate and
dismantle trafficking operations and prosecute offenders.
The NBI has created a task force on the protection of women
against exploitation and abuse, and a separate task force on
the protection of children;
--The DILG conducts systematic information and prevention
campaigns, and is creating a databank for the efficient
monitoring, documentation, and prosecution of cases of
trafficking in persons;
--The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
(NCRFW) institutes development plans for women and provides
technical assistance in setting up and strengthening response
to gender issues. It formulates and monitors policies on
trafficking in persons in coordination with relevant
government agencies;
--The BI administers and enforces immigration and alien
administration laws and adopts measures for the apprehension
of suspected traffickers both at the place of arrival and
departure. It ensures the compliance of Filipinos engaged or
married to foreign nationals with the guidance and counseling
requirements provided for in the trafficking law. It also
controls and monitors border points by deploying deputized
marines to help enforce immigration laws;
--POEA, affiliated with DOLE, is the primary administrator of
licenses for recruitment agencies. Recruitment agencies
cannot solicit employees for overseas work without the
permission of POEA. POEA has authority to place on probation
or bar from recruiting new workers and any agencies in
violation of POEA standards. POEA also administers
pre-employment orientation seminars and pre-departure
counseling programs to applicants for overseas employment.
POEA trains consulate staff, overseas labor officers and
social welfare officers in methods for assisting trafficking
victims abroad. It also provides free legal assistance to
trafficked victims;
--The Philippine Center of Transnational Crime (PCTC)
collects information for the effective monitoring,
documentation, and prosecution of cases of trafficking in
human beings.
C. The POEA distributed a total of 280,000 pamphlets about
licensed recruitment agencies in 2004 to Filipinos interested
in applying for work overseas. government agencies have
increased the frequency of TIP training and orientation
efforts over the last 10 months, according to reports. The
programs have already included training for several thousand
government officials, including prosecutors, judges, NBI
investigators, as well as local government units and city
councilors. Specifically, the latest DOJ estimates indicate
that 155 out of approximately 2000 prosecutors nationwide
have received training in the TIP law. In addition,
thousands of workers and hundreds of recruiting firm
employees have also received training. IACAT is now
finalizing a "standard orientation module" to begin use in
early 2005. TIP training programs that took place in 2004
-- government's Judicial Academy training (October): about 50
judges and lawyers;
-- Laoag local government TIP training (Laoag is a city in
northern Luzon Island): about 30 members of the local
government trained by DOJ in early September;
-- Orientation for judges and prosecutors on the TIP law (3-4
September 2004) in Manila: conducted jointly by the Supreme
Court, Philippine Judicial Academy, DOJ, National Police
Commission, University of Philippines Law Center, and the
ACILS' Anti-Trafficking Project;
-- Asia Foundation (September 2-4): 30 participants from
Asian governments and NGOs (including the Philippines)
participated in an anti-TIP "best practices" seminar in
-- National Commission on Role of Filipino Women training
(August 25): About 50 prosecutors trained in Pampanga
province in the central Philippines;
-- Bataan province TIP training (July): about 30 members of
the local government trained by DOJ;
-- Women's League-sponsored training (June 24/25): about 30
prosecutors and judges were trained in the 2003 law;
-- City Councilor Training (January - October 2004): a DOJ
prosecutor conducted two training courses for over 800 City
-- POEA: provided a one-day TIP module training to staff of
licensing agencies, at pre-employment seminars for overseas
workers, and at job fairs. POEA estimates that 600 staff
from licensing agencies and a few thousand overseas workers
have received this training since late 2003;
-- Eight International Justice Mission (IJM) Training
sessions for over 220 people from the NGO and law enforcement
community. Sessions took place in Manila, Davao City, and
-- Several ACILS Anti-trafficking Project orientation
seminars took place around the country in 2004, providing
training for over 2000 people from the national government
and local government units as well as the NGO community.
D. The government supports numerous other programs to
prevent trafficking. It promotes women's participation in
economic decision-making and efforts to keep children
enrolled in school. It provides skill training for women and
access to capital via micro-loans to create new jobs. These
efforts are aimed at promoting the local economy and
lessening the need for women to go to urban centers or abroad
to earn money.
DOLE is the lead agency of the National Program Against Child
Labor (NPACL), a comprehensive inter-agency response to child
labor in the Philippines. The program focuses on preventing
children from becoming victims of the worst forms of child
labor (including trafficking) and ensures that victims will
be provided protection and reintegrated into society.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas counsels Filipinos
engaged or married to foreign nationals and provides
information on intermarriages, migration, rights and
obligations, and available support networks abroad. In order
to obtain a marriage certificate, local registrars require
that foreigners obtain a "Legal Capacity to Marry" statement
from their embassy, attesting they are not married abroad.
DSWD provides social protection and promotes the rights and
welfare of the disadvantaged sector. DSWD keeps social
workers posted at international airports to monitor the
travel of minors abroad. The Crisis Intervention Unit of
DSWD's Quick Response Team serves the needs of women victims
of trafficking by strengthening and establishing working
arrangements with government, non-government, professional
and civic organizations. Other efforts include organizing
support groups and providing psycho-social, medical, legal
and counseling services.
The Bureau of Non-Formal Education, an agency under the
DepEd, has developed learning modules for Parents of Working
Children (PWC) in various regions with high incidence of
worst forms of child labor. Translated into local dialects,
the modules aim at educating the parents about their
children's health needs and basic rights, and provide
opportunities for livelihood and income generating projects.
DepEd continues to operate a home study program designed to
prevent students from quitting school due to poverty,
illness, or early marriage. With assistance from POEA and
CFO, DepEd also incorporates lessons on international
migration (including illegal recruitment and mail order
brides) into social studies and values education subjects in
public elementary and high schools throughout the country.
The POEA conducts pre-departure seminars for migrant workers,
covering topics such as contracts, wages, benefits, etc. It
also provides comprehensive community education and programs
on trafficking.
E. The government is able to support some prevention
programs, but funding is limited. For example, the PAIRTF
received only USD 185,000 in 2004 funding. However, the
vibrant NGO community supplements government efforts with
innovative and low-cost programs that assist trafficking
F. The relationship among government officials, NGOs, and
other elements of civil society concerned with trafficking
issues is exemplary. The NGO Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.
(VFF) coordinates closely with local law enforcement and
private industry in rescuing trafficking victims in Manila's
North Harbor, for example. Additionally, three member NGOs
focused on women, children, and overseas Filipino workers are
part of the IACAT. The NGOs assist the government in
preventing trafficking activities, protecting and
reintegrating trafficking victims, and prosecuting
NGOs often refer trafficking victims to government agencies,
as the NGOs lack the necessary funding fully to help victims
and their families. Government agencies recognize the
importance of engaging NGOs in their advocacy programs.
Several government agencies have NGO desks that oversee
government-NGO coordination.
Since 2001, the IJM, a US-based NGO employing private
Filipino investigators and prosecutors, has coordinated with
the government in an effort to increase the number of pro
bono prosecutions in the country, including under the 2003
anti-trafficking law. In the area of investigation, IJM
gathers evidence against establishments that employ
prostitutes and children, and shares this information with
the National Bureau of Investigation. IJM's private
prosecutors then file criminal cases for sexually abused
women and children. In late 2004, the International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (INL) funded a grant
project for IJM intended to accelerate prosecutions
G. Manila's North Harbor, the country's largest port, sees
five million passengers pass through on an annual basis. As
many as half of these are persons in search of employment.
Despite efforts to guard major port areas, the government
does not have sufficient resources adequately to monitor its
borders. The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands, and
fully monitoring its maritime borders is virtually impossible
with the limited resources of the maritime services. From
January 2004 to December 2004, the VFF assisted 2,987
trafficked women and children in major port areas.
The Philippine Coast Guard under the Department of
Transportation and Communication (DOTC) intercepts ferries in
order to identify trafficked victims and illegal recruiters
in coordination with private shipping companies. The Maritime
Police conducts investigations upon the disembarkation of
passengers. It refers victims of trafficking to government
agencies or local NGOs for further assistance.
Owners, managers, and key personnel of shipping companies
conduct regular orientation and awareness seminars with crew
to educate them on ways to identify and report suspected
trafficking victims onboard. Often, shipping companies
assist in facilitating the repatriation of minors by offering
discounted fares.
H. The Secretary of Justice is the Chairperson of the
Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.
The DOJ has an existing Task Force on the Protection of Women
Against Abuse, Exploitation and
Discrimination, as well as a Task Force on Child Protection
to address violation cases against women and children.
The Anti-Illegal Recruitment Coordinating Councils (AIRCCs)
serve as a venue at the grassroots level for consultation and
information sharing to map out strategies in improving the
anti-illegal recruitment programs of the government.
The Sub-Committee on Human Trafficking of the National Law
Enforcement Coordinating Committee (NALECC) meets regularly
for data sharing on human trafficking cases and adopting
measures to improve coordination.
Local Councils for the Protection of Children exist at the
provincial, city, municipality and village levels to assist
in identifying conditions related to child abuse, neglect,
and exploitation, and to facilitate immediate responses to
reported cases of child abuse and exploitation.
Other initiatives include: the PNP has women and children's
desks in various precincts; the POEA has its Anti-Illegal
Recruitment Branch; and the NBI has its Violence Against
Women and Children Desk.
Both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Presidential
Anti-Graft Commission pursue official corruption. In January
2005, President Arroyo appointed a new anti-corruption czar,
a former Acting Secretary of Justice who was personally
involved in numerous anti-trafficking initiatives, including
the designation of four specialized prosecutors.
I. The Philippines participates in international efforts to
prevent, monitor, and control trafficking. Having completed
Phase I of an agreement with the United Nations Center for
International Crime Prevention, Office for Drug Control and
Crime Prevention (CICP/ODCCP) to gather information on
organized criminal groups involved in trafficking, the DSWD
now is implementing an 18-month Phase II project to provide
capacity building for service providers in havens for women
and children and rehabilitate trafficked victims by providing
full security and financial assistance, non-formal training,
and establishing link-ups with the business community for
possible internship programs.
The Philippines is a member of the 16-country Global
Commission on International Migration (GCIM), and one of only
five countries to participate in the drafting of the
commission's mandate. Created in September 2002, the
organization aims to enlarge the issue of migration on the
global agenda, analyze gaps in current approaches to
migration, and present recommendations to the UN on how to
strengthen national, regional, and global governance of
international migration. DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas
serves on the organization's commission. GCIM's first
meeting took place in Stockholm, Sweden on February 26-27,
(Mission has requested that the DFA provide additional
information regarding government participation in
trafficking-related international and regional meetings in
2004. We will provide this information to G/TIP when we
receive it.)
J. The government has a national plan to address TIP,
created with NGO input. IACAT implements the plans involving
DoJ, DSWD, DOLE, and other agencies. The national plan is
provided to all relevant agencies.
K. All agencies involved in IACAT have shared
responsibilities for developing and implementing
anti-trafficking programs. As co-chair of IACAT, the DOJ
ensures the protection of persons accused of trafficking,
provides access to free government or NGO legal assistance,
and trains select prosecutors in handling trafficking-related
cases. DSWD takes the lead in implementing rehabilitative
and protective programs for trafficked persons and provides
victims with counseling and temporary shelter. It also has
developed a system for accreditation among NGOs in order to
establish centers and programs for intervention at the
community level.
4. (SBU) The answers below are keyed to the format contained
in Ref E, Para 20.
A. On May 26, 2003, President Arroyo signed into law R.A.
9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. It is
landmark legislation in protecting women and children from
sexual exploitation and forced labor. The law affirms the
government's resolve to prevent and suppress the illegal
trade in persons, especially women and children, and carries
penalties not only against traffickers but also against users
or buyers of victims.
In addition to the anti-trafficking law, the government uses
several laws to prosecute traffickers, including the Migrant
Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act (R.A. 8042), which gives
the government authority to combat illegal recruiting; the
Mail-Order Bride Law (R.A. 6955), which makes it unlawful
under exploitive circumstances for Filipino women to marry
foreign men; the Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995 (R.A.
8043), which ensures the protection of Filipino children from
abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and/or sale; the Special
Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and
Discrimination Act (R.A. 7610), which establishes penalty for
traffickers; and the Anti-Child Labor Law (R.A. 9231), which
prohibits the employment of children below 15 except when
granted special permission by DOLE and guarantees the
protection, health, and safety of child workers.
B. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 imposes harsh
penalties on persons engaged in trafficking. The law
distinguishes three types of violations: participating in the
direct act of trafficking, acts that promote trafficking, and
acts of qualified trafficking. The penalty for a direct act
is a fine of P1 million to P2 million (17,800 USD- 35,600
USD) and 20 years imprisonment; promotion of trafficking
through falsification of documents and tampering with
certificates carries up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine
of P500,000 to P1 million (8,900 USD-17,800 USD). The
maximum penalty is applied if the victim is a child, if
conducted on a large scale, or if the crime involves military
or law enforcement agencies and public officers or employees,
which calls for life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to
P5 million. Those who engaged the services of trafficked
persons for prostitution, or qualified trafficking, face
penalties of between six months of community service and a
fine of P50,000 (890 USD) to a maximum of one-year
imprisonment and a fine of P100,000 (1,780 USD).
C. Under R.A. 8353 (the Anti-Rape Law of 1997), the penalty
for rape is life imprisonment to death. Under R.A. 7877 (the
Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995), any person who violates
the provisions of the act shall be penalized by imprisonment
of not less than one month or more than six months, or a fine
of up to P20,000 (400 USD) or both fine and imprisonment.
D. In August 2004, then-Acting Secretary of Justice
Merceditas Gutierrez signed Department Order No. 326
stipulating that four specific DOJ prosecutors would focus
exclusively on TIP cases and should complete preliminary
investigations within 60 days. Observers saw the signing of
Order No. 326 as a positive event in the government's
anti-TIP effort.
The DOJ is now in the process of prosecuting six trafficking
cases. Up to six additional cases are in preliminary stages
of filing. The primary case involves five female victims,
three of whom are minors, trafficked internally and forced
into prostitution. Courts have not yet rendered a verdict on
any cases under the 2003 law, however, and so no one has
served time for trafficking under this law, although there
have been convictions under related legislation, such as
child abuse and illegal recruitment.
The government has a poor system of collecting and
maintaining data on criminal activity in general. The lack
of data is not unique to human trafficking.
Specific trafficking-related cases filed by the DOJ (many
still in the process of investigation), include:
--Four cases under R.A. 7610 for Child Prostitution, all now
in trial;
--One case under R.A. 7610 for Child Prostitution, still in
preliminary investigation;
--Three cases under R.A. 9208 (TIP Law) for Child
Trafficking, all in preliminary investigation or
reinvestigation (due to motion filed by accused);
--One case under R.A. 8042 for illegal recruitment, now in
trial status.
E. NGOs report that organized crime syndicates hailing from
Japan and China control most of the sex industry in Manila.
Employment agencies are involved in much of the
trafficking both within the country and to overseas
destinations. They may also have a role in trafficking of
persons into the country. In addition, these agencies may be
involved in legitimate recruitment of personnel, making it
particularly challenging to identify illegal recruitment, as
the line between "good" and "bad" agencies becomes blurred.
Other recruiters may be relatives or neighbors, while some
parents and guardians sell their children into bondage. In
many cases, trafficking syndicates use Filipino women in
their mid-40s or older to seek out victims, since older women
are believed to be the least likely to harm younger women.
F. The government actively investigates cases of
trafficking-related offenses, but is hampered by scarce
resources. The principal investigative agencies are the BI,
NBI, and the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
The BI ensures that all foreign nationals within its
territorial jurisdiction comply with existing laws to ensure
the protection of women and children against commercial
sexual exploitation. In July 2003, the NBI created the
Anti-Human Trafficking Division (AHTRAD) to investigate
trafficking-related cases. Special investigative techniques
include electronic surveillance, asset information gathering,
and undercover operations. In January 2004, AHTRAD arrested
a Japanese national and his Filipina companion who issued
fake Artist Record Books (ARB) to two women recruited to work
as entertainers in Japan. The NBI filed charges of illegal
recruitment and falsification of public documents against the
suspects, who were detained but were later granted bail.
Their case is pending.
G. Please refer to Para three, section C, for a full listing
of recent training.
H. The government cooperates with other governments in the
investigation and prosecution of TIP cases. The total number
of cooperative investigations is not available. In September
2004, the government, through its Embassies in Brunei and
Malaysia, collaborated with the Brunei Immigration
authorities leading to the rescue and repatriation of two
Filipina workers, who were trafficked to Brunei and were
forced to become sex workers. Also in September, the
government sought the help of Malaysian officials to
investigate the case of three Filipinas, who were trafficked
to Sabah, Malaysia as sex workers. The Malaysian police
conducted a raid on the brothel in search for the Filipinas,
which forced the owners to release and repatriate the victims.
I. The government has not yet extradited persons charged
with trafficking from other countries nor has it extradited
its own nationals charged with such offenses, although the
government agreed in one case to extradite Filipinos
allegedly involved in child abuse-related offenses to the
U.S. The Philippines has extradition treaties with numerous
countries. Under the terms of the 2003 anti-trafficking law,
trafficking in persons is an extraditable offense.
J. There is no evidence establishing government involvement
in or tolerance of trafficking on a local and institutional
level. However, government officials (such as customs
officers, border guards, immigration officials, local police
or others) allegedly often receive bribes from traffickers or
otherwise assist in their operations.
K. No officials have been charged directly with trafficking.
L. The government continues to cooperate with the USG in
prosecuting American nationals under the terms of the PROTECT
Act and related statutes, mostly for engaging in sex or
planning to engage in sex with minors. As of late 2004, five
American nationals have been prosecuted under the PROTECT Act
for crimes involving a Philippine nexus.
(Mission is checking for further information on government
prosecutions and/or extradition of foreign nationals for sex
M. The Government has signed and ratified the following
international instruments:
--Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons
and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others:
ratified in September 1952;
--International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic
in Women and Children: ratified in September 1954;
--International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic
in Women of Full Age: ratified in September 1954;
--ILO Convention 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labor:
ratified in November 1960;
--United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women: ratified in May 1981;
--United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child:
ratified in September 1990;
--UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights
of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families:
ratified on July 1995;
--Oslo Agenda of Action on Child Labor: ratified in December
--1996 Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action Against
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: ratified in
December 1992;
--ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate
Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor:
ratified in October 2000;
--Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the
Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime: ratified
in October 2001;
--The Optional Protocol on the Suppression of Trafficking in
Persons Especially Women and Children: ratified in October
--Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child
Prostitution and Child Pornography supplementing the
Convention on the Rights of the Child: ratified in April
--UN Convention on Transnational Crime: ratified in May 2002;
--ILO Convention 29 Concerning Forced Labour: signed by
President Arroyo on January 14, 2005, pending Senate
5. (SBU) The answers below are keyed to the format contained
in Ref E, Para 21.
A. The government assists victims by providing temporary
residency status, relief from deportation, shelter, and
access to legal, medical and psychological services.
Additional protective services include telephone hotlines for
reporting abused/exploited cases of women and children.
The DSWD's Residential Care unit provides 24-hour residential
group care to children on a temporary basis to facilitate
healing, recovery, and reintegration with their families and
communities. Currently, 49 centers cater to an average of 80
children per center, an increase of ten centers since last
year. Substitute homes, or havens, are used to address the
needs of women victims of trafficking and other forms of
abuse. At present, 14 substitute homes provide shelter for
over 1,100 women and their children, an increase of one since
last year.
Crisis intervention and child protection units operate in
many public hospitals throughout the country. The crisis
units also provide telephone counseling, conduct rescue
operations, and provide overnight facilities and referral
services for longer-term shelters. Women and Children
Protection Units in Department of Health (DOH) hospitals
offer medical services and psychological counseling to
victims of violence. The Philippine General Hospital in
Manila evaluates and treats TIP victims on behalf of the
The Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act requires
documented OFWs to participate in a HIV/AIDS seminar as part
of the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar. Actual testing
takes place only upon the request of the OFW or if required
by the country of destination, especially for sea-based
workers. The law does not provide mandatory HIV/AIDS
screening for trafficking victims. However, the rate of
HIV/AIDS in the Philippines remains extremely low, though
often underreported. UNAIDS estimates that 10,000 people, or
.012% of the population, is HIV positive, though there are
concerns that this figure could grow quickly. Official DOH
statistics show 2,200 reported cases.
B. The Philippine Ports Authority's Gender and Development
(GAD) Focal Point Program, an agency under the DOTC, provides
the building and amenities for a halfway house, managed by
VFF, a local NGO. Activities of the halfway house staff
include regular inspection of the different port areas,
assistance to possible victims of traffickers and victims of
illegal recruitment, information dissemination, and basic
orientation seminars.
In November 2003, VFF launched the Multi-Sectoral Alliance
Against Trafficking in Persons to promote cooperation and
sustain partnership among government, non-government
organizations, the private sector, and civil society.
Government partners include the DOJ, DOLE, DFA, DILG, DSWD,
National Police Commission, PPA, and the Commission on Human
Rights. DSWD provides limited funding to accredited NGOs to
help meet the basic needs of victims, such as food, clothing,
medicine, and legal services. With assistance from DFA, DSWD
establishes arrangements with NGOs in other countries to
provide distressed OFWs with temporary shelter, counseling,
and medical assistance.
In general, NGOs cannot rely on government funding. They
typically turn to foreign governments, foreign and domestic
religious groups, third-country and multinational donor
agencies, and private foundations. However, the government
is highly aware of the value of NGOs in combating
trafficking, and routinely seeks cooperation.
C. Port personnel refer victims, as well as domestic workers
detained at port police stations, to the halfway houses run
by the VFF. The DSWD also refers cases of physical and
verbal abuse against domestic workers to VFF for
psycho-social intervention and short-term care until the
victims have been repatriated. In November 2004, VFF
launched a new halfway house in Matnog in Southern Luzon.
This is VFF's fourth halfway house, in addition to those in
Manila, Davao, and Batangas, and is similarly in coordination
with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA). Halfway house
staff provides direct services to trafficked victims in
ports, including temporary shelter, referral and
repatriation, and counseling
D. The 2003 anti-trafficking law recognizes trafficked
persons as victims and does not penalize them for crimes
related to the acts of trafficking or for obeying
traffickers, regardless of their consent to the intended
exploitation. Police sometimes bring charges of vagrancy
against alleged prostitutes.
E. Yes, the government actively encourages victims to assist
in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking and
related crimes. Victims can file civil suits or seek legal
action against traffickers. Pursuant to the Rape Victim
Assistance and Protection Act, an all-female team of police
officers, examining physicians and prosecutors, must handle
investigations of offenses committed against women. In the
case of trafficked children, the Special Protection of
Children Act and the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness
mandate that only a single panel interview will be conducted
to avoid the damaging effect of feeling re-victimized through
a series of repeated questioning. All fines imposed by the
courts on the offenders accrue to a Trust Fund administered
by IACAT, dedicated to preventing acts of trafficking,
protecting and rehabilitating victims, and reintegrating
trafficked persons into the community.
F. Under the Witness Protection, Security, and Benefit
Program, the DOJ offers protection to witnesses from
reprisals and economic dislocation by providing security
protection, immunity from criminal prosecution, housing,
livelihood expenses, travel expenses, medical benefits,
education to dependents, and job security. However, some
witness protection participants have complained of
insufficient security and of abusive guards. Moreover, due
to lack of resources to fund the program, many who would like
to participate cannot. Many other potential witnesses may
not be aware of the existence of this program.
G. Please refer to Para three, section C, for a full listing
of recent training.
The BI is also conducting periodic training on basic
immigration laws and procedure for immigration officers and
agents in the field and other personnel involved in operation
procedures. Training on anti-trafficking in persons is now
incorporated in the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS)
for consular staff, as well as Foreign Service officers and
attaches who will be posted to foreign missions and
consulates. ILO and the government's Foreign Service
Institute (FSI) are developing an anti-trafficking in persons
training module. The training module (in CD format) will
benefit Foreign Service officers of DFA who will be posted
and those who are already posted but unable to undergo
anti-trafficking training through PDOS.
H. The DFA and the OWWA assist repatriated Filipino workers
who are victims of trafficking. The OWWA's Halfway Home
program provides temporary shelter, transport services,
financial assistance, and counseling services through a
network of NGOs. From January to December 2004, OWWA
repatriated 1824 documented workers, many of whom came from
the Middle East, including Iraq (after the government banned
new employment in Iraq for OFWs). The DSWD, working with
DOLE, and DOH, provides protective custody, recovery and
healing services for victims. Services include organization
of support groups, psychological and psychiatric
interventions, medical, legal and livelihood services,
provision of limited financial assistance, and educational
I. The Philippines has a vibrant local and international NGO
community, many of which work directly with trafficking
victims. The most active are:
--Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Asia Pacific
(CATW-AP). CATWAP is an international network of feminist
groups, organizations and individuals fighting the sexual
exploitation of women. The coalition brings attention to
trafficking in women and girls, prostitution, pornography,
sex tourism, and bride selling, mainly through media
campaigns and policy advocacy. It provides preventive
education program on migration and trafficking at the
community and grassroots level and conducts dialogues with
government agencies such as the POEA, DOLE, and DSWD on
preventive and curative measures. Services include referring
trafficking cases to member and partner organizations for
legal, counseling and support services and documentation of
trafficking cases based on the Human Rights Information and
Documentation System used by a global network of
organizations concerned with human rights issues;
--VFF focuses on the promotion of child welfare, especially
migrant working children and is active on the issue of
domestic trafficking of women and children. It provides
24-hour services for victims, including the operation of
several temporary shelters, counseling, employment referrals,
training, and advocacy. Staff positioned at port arrival
areas identify and intercept probable victims of trafficking
as they disembark ships. Through funding assistance from The
Asia Foundation and the USG, VFF spearheaded the creation of
a Multi-Sectoral Network Against Trafficking (MSNAT), a
national network committed to provide immediate and
appropriate response mechanisms to prevent trafficking,
investigate and prosecute offenders, and protect, rescue,
recover, and reintegrate victims, especially women and
--Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). TUCP is
the largest trade union network in the Philippines. The TUCP
forges coalitions with various labor groups in its efforts to
promote and protect the rights and welfare of workers and
other disadvantaged groups, including women, youth and
children, and migrant workers. Its Women's Bureau is
particularly active in anti-trafficking initiatives, such as
public information and media campaigns, database collection
and documentation, provision of legal assistance to victims,
and networking. With funding support from the American
Center for International Labor Solidarity and the USG, TUCP
conducted an anti-trafficking project establishing a
coalition of private sector organizations that will
coordinate with the government to ensure the implementation
of activities on trafficking in persons;
--American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).
ACILS, active in Philippines since 1969, has an extensive
network in government, NGOs, trade unions, academia, and the
business community. ACILS addresses labor issues, including
irregular migration and trafficking in persons. In 2003,
ACILS established a multi-sectoral Technical Working Group
(TWG) to assist trafficking victims, monitor trafficking
developments, process inquiries and complaints, and initiate
filing of trafficking cases. TWG is composed of 37
organizations including 18 national government agencies, plus
19 trade union, NGOs, and advocacy groups;
--Development Action for Women Network (DAWN). DAWN
addresses the concerns of Filipino women migrants in Japan as
well as the growing number of Japanese-Filipino children
(JFCs). Almost 90 percent of overseas Filipino workers in
Japan are female entertainers, making them vulnerable to
trafficking and sexual exploitation. In coordination with
its DAWN-Japan volunteers, the local branch assists JFCs
abandoned by their Japanese fathers;
--Women's Legal Bureau (WLB). WLB is a feminist legal NGO
composed of lawyers, academics, and members of other
professions. It provides legal services to victim and
survivors of violence against women and conducts education
and information campaigns to raise public awareness on
women's issues. Other programs include representation of
women in judicial proceedings, training of law enforcers and
members of the legal profession on gender sensitivity,
empowering communities to respond to feminist issues
especially those involving violence against women, and
working with women's groups toward promoting human rights;
--Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women
(TWMAEW). TWMAEW addresses the needs of children and women
in prostitution and other victims of sexual exploitation
through shelters and support centers. It offers skills
training, livelihood assistance, and psycho-social
intervention. In collaboration with UNICEF and DepEd, it
conducted awareness-raising campaigns on sexual abuse for
13,291 elementary pupils. Social workers, educators, and
survivors of sexual abuse facilitated the workshops;
--Kanlungan Center Foundation (KCF). Kanlungan works with
OFWs and their families in addressing the problems of migrant
workers. It provides legal and welfare assistance, feminist
counseling, temporary shelter, and education and training.
Courses include Basic Migrants, Orientation, Migrant Rights
and Legal Remedies, and Gender Awareness and Sensitivity.
Kanlungan also intervenes at the grassroots level and
addresses the psycho-social and economic causes and effects
of migration by forging partnerships with other organizations
at the community level;
--End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the
Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT). ECPAT
campaigns to raise general public awareness in tourism, the
travel industry, and high-risk communities on the issue of
children victims of sexual abuse and commercial sexual
exploitation. ECPAT is a member of the Special Committee for
the Protection of Children under the Department of Justice
and works with local government units in major provinces and
cities, other NGOs, and church-based organizations.
and Practices8
6. (U) Mission,s choices of and
Practices8 follow:
-- Lourdes G. Balanon, Undersecretary for Policy and
Programs, DSWD. Balanon has been a champion of the rights of
women and children, and has been at the forefront of
government efforts to counter TIP and end child sex tourism.
Balanon is an excellent public speaker, and has been able to
highlight the importance of international cooperation in the
effort to end child sex tourism while providing concrete
insights based on the experience of the Philippines. She
values highly the importance of leveraging NGO efforts with
those of the government in combating TIP. On October 20,
2004, Balanon represented the government at a USG-sponsored
anti-child sex tourism conference held on the margins of the
UN General Assembly.
-- Patricia Sison-Arroyo, Executive Director, IJM's
Operational Field Presence. Arroyo oversees investigations,
interventions, and litigation. Working with government and
NGO contacts, she participates in undercover operations,
rescue and rehabilitation of victims, and prosecution of
traffickers. Prior to joining IJM, she litigated labor and
family law cases with a private law firm. Arroyo is a highly
effective lawyer, is dedicated to combating TIP, and is an
important Mission contact. She is currently playing a key
role in implementing a USG-sponsored project focused on
assisting IJM in its investigative and prosecutorial efforts.
-- Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, President and founding
member, Visayan Forum Foundation. Oebanda founded VFF in
1991 to rescue victims of trafficking, especially young
migrant workers. VFF now operates four halfway houses in
port areas of Manila, Davao, Batangas, and Matnog, where it
provides temporary shelter, counseling, and information to
trafficking victims. In addition, VFF refers cases to CIDG
for further investigation and eventual prosecution. Oebanda
works closely with Mission staff in combating TIP, and is
currently overseeing two G/Tip-funded grants in Manila and
Davao. She is highly regarded by Mission personnel and in
the Philippines.
Best Practices:
Government cooperation with the private sector and targeted
NGOs manifests itself as a best practice. Thanks in part to
a USG grant, for example, the NGO VFF operates four shelters
for victims at major ports, including in Manila and Davao.
The PPA, police and shipping companies -- including the
Philippines, largest passenger shipping company WG & A --
identify victims transiting the port and turn them over to
VFF, which provides on-site housing and protection. VFF then
works with police to facilitate investigations and with DSWD
to repatriate and counsel victims, and take measures to avoid
re-trafficking. At the Davao shelter alone, VFF serves up to
45 victims a week, mostly women and girls on their way to
imagined jobs in Manila, but also men and boys. This example
of public-private sector coordination is inspiring and
something we see as a best practice.
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