«THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE IN THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS AND SMUGGLING OF MIGRANTS, WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON PUNISHING ...»
THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE IN THE INVESTIGATION AND
PROSECUTION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS AND SMUGGLING OF
MIGRANTS, WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON PUNISHING THE TRAFFICKERS
Hon. Severino H. Gaña, Jr.*
Today, there are over eight million overseas Filipinos in 197 countries and territories, representing 10%
of the total Philippine population. These are either regular migrants or temporary residents abroad whose stay overseas is employment-related and who are expected to return at the end of their work contracts. The majority of Filipinos living abroad are those who are temporary residents.
Filipino temporary residents abroad are either legal workers or irregular workers. At present, there are about 1.8 million Filipinos who are considered irregular workers. These are people who are not properly documented, people who do not have valid work permits, or people who are overstaying workers.
The increasing trend in Filipino migration is the result of surplus labour which cannot be absorbed by labour infrastructures in the country and the constant overseas demand for skilled Filipino labour. The advent of globalization, rapid advancement in technology and financial instruments, and the desire of Filipinos to go abroad opened up an opportunity for human trafficking syndicates to develop cross-border networks for exploitation.
This presentation highlights the extent of the problem of human trafficking in the Philippines, the government initiatives taken to address the problem, and the projections for this transnational crime.
II. THE PHILIPPINE SITUATIONThe Philippines is considered both as a source and destination country. It also serves as one of the major trans-shipment points for trafficked/smuggled persons to be sent to other countries.
A. The Philippines as a Source Country Since the 1970s, the Philippines has been providing other countries with labour in various fields. As a result, there has been a consistent annual growth in the trend of Filipino migration. Consolidated reports coming from different government agencies reveal a 2% growth rate in overseas Filipinos from 7,412,086 in 2001 to 7,582,504 in 2002 to 7,763,178 in 2003. In 2004, the number of Filipino migrants jumped to 8,083,815.
8,200,000 8,083,815 8,000,000 7,800,000 7,763,178 OFW 7,600,000 7,582,504 7,400,000 7,412,086 7,200,000 7,000,000 * Assistant Chief State Prosecutor, Department of Justice, Philippines.
1. Top Countries of Destination The Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) has identified the top ten destinations of
Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs):
Reports show that 20% of the total overseas Filipino workers around the world are deployed in Asia.
Records also indicate that a majority of Filipinos are deployed in Malaysia and Japan.
Within Asia, the top five countries with the highest numbers of irregular workers are the following: (1) Malaysia (2) Singapore (3) Japan (4) South Korea and (5) Taiwan. Malaysia recorded the most number of irregular workers with some 300,000 followed by Singapore with about 72,000. Malaysia is most attractive to human traffickers because of its proximity to the Philippines through Mindanao Island.
3. The Philippines as a Destination Country Although the Philippines is largely considered a source country, it also attracts some foreigners to its shores. To date, there are 36,150 foreign nationals working and residing in the Philippines.
Because of its porous borders, human traffickers find it easy to bring their victims into the country. For years, the country has been identified as a destination for victims from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia and some central and eastern European countries.
As a related matter, confirmed intelligence reports show that undocumented foreign nationals are working in the country as illegal traders, entertainers and commercial sex workers. The Philippines is emerging as a favoured haven for foreign fugitives. There have been numerous arrests of fugitives within the Philippine jurisdiction.
4. The Philippines as a Trans-shipment Country With the perception that border controls in the Philippines allow easier entry, trafficking syndicates use the country as a trans-shipment point. They usually utilize tourist visas or tampered documents to facilitate entry into the Philippines. After staying for some time in the country, victims are transported to more lucrative destination markets. Aside from using airports, syndicates also travel to the southern part of the country such as Zamboanga City, Tawi-Tawi, Davao City and Palawan to take advantage of the backdoor route to other countries.
A. Illegal Recruitment This mode of trafficking is used by individuals posing as recruiters and projecting themselves as representatives or sales agents of a bogus recruitment agency authorized to recruit and deploy foreign workers to other countries.
A case in point is the trafficking of women to Malaysia. Victims are promised an expense-free recruitment process that includes air tickets, passport processing, placement fee and miscellaneous fees with the assurance that work permits will be issued at the country of destination. Once the victims are already transported, most are sold to prostitution dens and they begin to incur sky-rocketing debts leaving them no choice but to go out and render sexual services to customers (another way of forced prostitution) to pay said debts.
B. Illegal Migration This is usually committed by organized crime groups victimizing Filipino nationals who desire to permanently live or work abroad. The syndicate is presumed to receive large sums of money from prospective recruits ranging from PHP60,000 to PHP300,000 (Philippine Pesos).
C. Mail Order Brides This mode involves foreigners who are either married to Filipinos or those who have contacts here in the Philippines as prime recruiters. The recruiters target young, single and good-looking women who are then paired off with foreigners. Pictures of said women are published through travel and tour agencies and the Internet.
D. Foreign Training or Internship This is a legitimate means of going out of the country but most people who avail of this programme refuse to return home and instead prolong their stay in a particular country to work with the hope of legitimizing their stay therein.
E. Religious Pilgrimage This scheme victimizes mostly women who join groups for religious tours or pilgrimages and are promised employment by the traffickers upon arrival in the destination country. Some end up in bonded
labour while others are forced into prostitution.
F. Cultural Exchange/Promotion This scheme projects a group posing as artists or singers who would enter a country of destination on a cultural exchange arrangement. After the performances, the group disbands and erstwhile members are deployed in unstable or insecure jobs. This arrangement is a form of exploitation, especially of women.
Usually, the majority of these women end up in prostitution dens.
IV. ROUTES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKINGAirports are still the preferred exit point of OFWs using tourist visas or tampered visas with the aid of organized crime groups. This is the reason why the Philippine government has strengthened screening processes at airports to detect fake and tampered travel documents.
Records indicate that organized criminal groups utilize several seaports as exit points for their illegally recruited or trafficked victims. Their victims are being brought to the southern Philippine City of Zamboanga as these organized crime groups prefer said city as their staging area. The victims are then made to exit through the ‘back door’ using the port of Zamboanga or via the Zamboanga-Bongao-Sandakan route using commercial passenger vessels. This is primarily because of the proximity of Mindanao to destinations in the south such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
A high number of victims are also transported using the Tawi-Tawi exit point to Sandakan, Malaysia via temper-type sea crafts. Government authorities have also monitored the Palawan area to be an emerging trans-shipment point for Filipinos trafficked towards the South. Moreover, Davao City is also used as an exit point for persons trafficked to Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia.
V. THE ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS ACT OF 2003 (REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9208) Republic Act 9208 is a comprehensive law which seeks to institute policies to eliminate trafficking in persons, especially women and children, establish the necessary institutional mechanism for the protection and support of trafficked persons, and provide penalties for its violations. Salient features of the law are outlined below.
A. Defines Trafficking in Persons Using the definition of trafficking in the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as framework, the law defines trafficking in persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harbouring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall also be considered as “trafficking in persons” even if it does not involve any of the means set forth in the preceding paragraph.” B. Three Categories of Trafficking The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 punishes three categories of trafficking acts, enumerated below.
1. Acts of Trafficking in Persons (i) Recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, providing or receiving a person by any means for the purposes of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;
(ii) Introducing for money or other consideration, any Filipina to a foreigner as a possible spouse or to offer any Filipina to a foreigner as a prostitute;
134TH INTERNATIONAL TRAINING COURSE
VISITING EXPERTS’ PAPERS(iii) Offering or contracting marriage for purposes of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading a person to engage in prostitution, or other acts of exploitation;
(iv) Undertaking or organizing tour and travel plans consisting of tourism packages for purposes of utilizing or offering persons for prostitution, pornography or sexual exploitation;
(v) Maintaining or hiring a person to engage in prostitution or pornography;
(vi) Adopting or facilitating the adoption of persons for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;
(vii) Recruiting, hiring, adopting, transporting or abducting a person, by means of threat or use of force, fraud, deceit, violence, coercion or intimidation for the purpose of removal or sale of organs; or (viii) Recruiting, transporting or adopting a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad.
2. Acts that Promote Trafficking in Persons (i) Knowingly leasing or subleasing property for trafficking purposes;
(ii) Producing, printing, issuing or distributing unissued, tampered or fake counselling certificates, registration stickers and other certificates of government used for regulatory and pre-departure requirements for the purpose of promoting trafficking;
(iii) Advertising, publishing, printing, broadcasting or distributing, by any means, any brochure, flyer, or any propaganda material that promotes trafficking;
(iv) Facilitating, assisting or helping in the exit and entry of persons from/to the country at international or domestic airports, territorial boundaries and seaports who are in possession of unissued, tampered or fraudulent travel documents for the purpose of promoting trafficking; or (v) Confiscating, concealing, or destroying the passport, travel documents or belongings of trafficked persons, or preventing them from leaving the country or seeking redress from the government and appropriate agencies; or (vi) Knowingly benefiting, financially or otherwise, or making use of, the labour or services of a person held to a condition of involuntary servitude, forced labour or slavery.
3. Qualified Trafficking in Persons
Qualified trafficking is committed when:
(i) The trafficked person is below 18 years of age;
(ii) An adoption is effected through the Inter Country Adoption Law and the adoption is for prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;
(iii) The act is committed by a syndicate or on a large scale;
(iv) The offender is an ascendant, parent, sibling, guardian or a person who exercises authority over the trafficked person, or when the offence is committed by a public officer or employee;
(v) The trafficked person is recruited to engage in prostitution for any member of the military or law enforcement agencies;
(vi) The offender is a member of the military or law enforcement agencies; or (vii) By reason or on occasion of the act of trafficking, the offended party dies, becomes insane, suffers mutilation or is afflicted with HIV or AIDS.
5. Trafficking in Persons must be distinguished from Human Smuggling