Philippines OFF Human Tracking Watch List & Filipina Honored as Anti-Trafficking Hero

Manila, Philippines – The Philippines has been removed from the Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report released this week by the US State Department. The annual report tracks the progress of countries around the world in their efforts and policies to cut down on human trafficking. The Philippines has been identified as a source, destination and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.

For the past two years, the Philippines was tagged as “Tier 2 — Watch List”, a rating which meant that the government had failed to show evidence of trying to meet minimum standards set out in the internationally recognized Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Another Watch List rating would have meant the withdrawal of at least $500 million dollar worth of non-humanitarian aid from the US government.

Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, executive director of the Visayan Forum (VF), an anti-trafficking NGO says that the upgrade is a direct result of the government’s aggressive efforts to expedite the resolution of trafficking cases within 180 days after arraignment. “Within one year, there were 25 trafficking convictions, almost twice the total number of convictions during the past seven years.” “This is proof that with serious political will, through the allocation of budget and personnel, and vigorous partnership with NGOS to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims, we can win the war against trafficking,” Oebanda added.

In December 2010, Congress appropriated $550,000 in the 2011 national budget to fund, for the first time, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s anti-trafficking programs.

Ruby Ramores, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) programme officer said, “It is truly a relief. A consistent collaborative effort across all government agencies is needed to ensure that we stay off the watch list.” According to Ramores, the government and NGOs should work together to address the remaining challenges such as the need to sharpen the provisions of R.A. 9208 known as the anti-trafficking law such as the confidentiality clause which right now applies both the victims and the traffickers.


Filipina Honored as Trafficking in Persons 2011 Hero


In related news, Darlene Pajarito, assistant city prosecutor in Zamboanga City was cited by the US State Department as a 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero. Pajarito secured the Philippines’ first sex trafficking conviction in 2005 and the first labor trafficking conviction in 2011. Pajarito has secured more convictions in Zamboanga than have been handed down in any other Philippine city and is recognized as one of the most formidable anti-trafficking advocates in the country.

Each year, the US State Department honors individuals around the world who are dedicated to ending trafficking by protecting victims, punishing offenders and increasing awareness about this modern day form of slavery.

The Body Shop Celebrates Successes of Stop Sex Trafficking Campaign— And Announces New Ways for You to Help!

by Elizabeth Fox, Sex and Summer Intern

The Body Shop is famous for being the world’s premier original, natural, and ethical beauty company. While creating all natural, fairly produced products, it also strives to protect the planet and the people who depend on it—often resulting in successful global campaigns against the world’s atrocities.

One such movement is the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People Campaign. Launched in 2009, this campaign pairs The Body Shop with ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) in an effort to raise awareness of trafficking and funds for victims and people at risk.

According to The Body Shop website, human trafficking is the modern-day equivalent to the slave trade and the third largest criminal industry in the world. Every year at least 1.2 million children and young people are trafficked into sexual exploitation and cheap labor. It was these “traffic stopping” statistics and the horrifying stories of those affected by trafficking—some of which you can read on The Body Shop website—that inspired Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick to partner with ECPAT. The campaign has gathered support in more than forty countries, sponsored numerous rallies against trafficking, and raised money via the Body Shop “Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream”, the proceeds of which are donated entirely to ECPAT and other similar organizations. The campaign’s current project, however, is the Stop Sex Trafficking (SST) petition, which calls upon the government of each country involved to introduce strong anti-trafficking policies and devote more money to trafficking victims.

While the campaign aimed to have only 170,000 signatures by this point, 297,000 have already signed. In celebration of this accomplishment, The Body Shop held a press conference on Wednesday, May 4th, at which they discussed their successes so far, the future of the campaign, and invited some key speakers to take a stand against trafficking. These 300,000 signatures bring the campaign much closer to their goal of 500,000 by August 12, 2011—the date they plan to present the petition to President Aquino.

While the Philippines, currently classified as Tier 2 Watchlist of the United States State Department, is making significant efforts to curb trafficking, the crime remains a huge problem. The Filipino petition therefore demands, as ECPAT Philippines Executive Director Dolores Alforte said Wednesday, that President Aquino further develop small, community-based prevention programs, education requirements in schools, and national law enforcement systems.

Also present at the event was Santa Rosa City Councilor Edward Fernandito S. Tiongco. Tiongco, who has fought actively for the campaign, leading to Santa Rosa becoming the city with the most signatures, declared in his speech, as he spoke of the necessity of reform, “I will give up my career as a politician if I have to for the advocacy.”

Even Robi Domingo, actor and first runner up of the reality television show Pinoy Big Brother Plus, made an appearance, sharing a short speech about the gravity of trafficking.  Domingo also introduced The Body Shop’s latest addition to the campaign, “Be a Campaign Hero”. Any supporter of the campaign can stop at their local Body Shop and ask for a Campaign Hero Pack (which contains blank copies of the petition). Once she has collected ten signatures and returned them to the store she will be awarded with a Stop Sex Trafficking Badge. The three people who collect the most signatures will be given Body Shop product prizes and be recognized on The Body Shop website and Facebook fan page as Stop Sex Trafficking Champion Campaign Heroes. Domingo himself is already a campaign hero and proudly showed off his badge Wednesday.

Want to stop sex trafficking too?

“Be a Campaign Hero” will run from May 1 to May 31. Participating stores are Alabang Town Center, Greenhills, Glorietta 3, New Eastwood Mall, SM Mall of Asia, Robinsons Ermita, Robinsons Galleria, Rockwell, SM City and SM Megamall.

For more information on how to become a campaign hero and the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People Campaign, check out The Body Shop Philippines’ website or

Finally, whether or not you decide to become a hero, click here to sign the petition!


Demi and Ashton Launch “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” Video Campaign

by Elizabeth Fox, Sex and student intern

Real men know how to start a fire. Real men know how to make a meal. Real men do their own laundry. Real men are distrustful of robots.

You get the idea. But now, thanks to the DNA foundation, there’s a new phrase in this series: Real men don’t buy girls.

The DNA (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher) Foundation, which was created by the famous duo in order to raise awareness about global human trafficking, challenge the mindsets that perpetuate the industry, and aid trafficking victims, launched a new interactive video campaign this week entitled “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” The videos, which focus their condemnation on female sex trafficking, feature some prominent celebrities as they demonstrate their “real man” abilities. In “Real Men Prefer a Close Shave,” for example, Justin Timberlake shaves with a chainsaw. In “Real Men Know How to Use an Iron,” Sean Penn irons himself…a grilled cheese sandwich. In “Real Men are Distrustful of Robots”—well, you’ll have to see for yourself. At the close of each movie, a picture of the real man in question joins a veritable hall of fame of real men—Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and so on. To top it off, add the “Real Men” app on Facebook and you can even put a photo of yourself into one of the movies.

The campaign is, admittedly, little goofy—after all, it is Ashton Kutcher; what else could we expect?—but below the surface silliness is a serious issue. According to the DNA Foundation website, over 12 million people worldwide—men, women, and children—have been trafficked and currently live in modern-day slavery. These innocent people are enslaved for many purposes, including but not limited to prostitution, pornography, forced labor, and indentured servitude.

The Philippines, according to a 2008 study by the National Bureau of Investigation, is one of the top five countries in the world where human trafficking victims come from, as well as a common destination country for trafficked individuals from other countries. Numbers indicate that 80% of Filipino human trafficking victims are girls under eighteen, most of whom will be sent to other countries in Southeast Asia to work as household help, entertainers, or sex workers., a web resource for combating human trafficking, estimates that around 350,000 Filipino women and around 80,000 Filipino children are currently being trafficked, many suffering from sexual exploitation. And while Filipinos who travel overseas to work generally do so voluntarily, during their time abroad many will be manipulated in some way. The government supports a variety of prevention programs but the problems persist, and reports exist of immigration officials and police officers who have become involved in the industry.

Last year, the Philippines was listed by the US State Department on the Tier 2 Watchlist for failure to initiate efforts to put a stop to human trafficking. The government has been scrambling to get off that list and progress has been made in the last year. But there is still much to be done by the government to avoid a further downgrading and the potential loss of USD 250million of economic and humanitarian aid.

“Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom,” says the DNA Foundation website. “No one has the right to enslave another person.” Yet, as Demi and Ashton suggest, the crisis of human trafficking, and especially sex trafficking, will not disappear unless there is a fundamental change in the mindsets of those perpetrating these crimes–men.  The real men need to stand up.

Because they know that “Real men don’t buy girls”.


And as any girl worth her SASs would know, a real man is always better than a knock-off posing as one.


About Elizabeth Fox

Elizabeth is a junior at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she studies comparative literature, participates in a lot of extracurricular theatre and music, and sleeps very little.

Elizabeth came to Manila hopeful for a new experience and an internship in writing and women’s health. During a lengthy, late-night search through much more tame and lackluster options, Sex and Sensibilities jolted Elizabeth awake by merely having the word “sex” in its title, and appeared as an oasis of SASsy-ness. She shot Ana an email immediately and the rest, as they say, is herstory.



PH makes significant progress in combating human trafficking, says US interim report

Photo by Mitch Mauricio

This article was written by Ana Santos and also appeared in 

Manila, Philippines – The Philippine government has made significant progress in combating human trafficking according to a US State Department interim report released last April 5. The US State Department released the report to track the anti-trafficking progress made by countries placed on the special watch list last year.

In 2010, the Philippines was classified as Tier 2 Watch List for the second straight year for its failure to make significant efforts to curb human trafficking. Further downgrading would result in a Tier 3 classification. According to the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), sanctions for Tier 3 countries include withholding of all non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.

For the Philippines, this puts more than US$250 million in assistance at risk. The interim report is issued by the US State Department  also as a guide to help watch listed countries from being further de-listed and getting a Tier 3 ranking.

Progress, definitely

But progress has definitely been made.  Since the Anti-Trafficking Law was passed in 2003, there were only 21 convictions of trafficking-related cases. However, from May 2010 to April 2011, the Inter–Agency Council Against Trafficking, which tracks all trafficking convictions, counted 26 convictions. Experts attribute the progress to the order released by the Supreme Court to expedite human trafficking cases. This has greatly reduced the time it takes to resolve a case, which has historically been a main impediment.

“This has been a huge help. Before it would take four to five years to prosecute a single case. Witnesses, who are often victims themselves, want to get on with their lives and end up not pursuing the case,” said Jojo Lacanilao, Director of the International Justice Missions’ Manila Field Office.

Other significant efforts made by the Philippines included:

  • Increased staffing of the inter-agency anti-trafficking task force at Manila’s international airport and assigned social workers to the task force to improve victim identification and assistance.
  • Establishment of anti-trafficking air and seaport task forces in five additional regions.
  • Increased staffing for the Anti Human Trafficking Division by the National Bureau of Investigation increased staffing for its Anti Human Trafficking Division. The NBI also created a new anti-TIP task force in Angeles City that arrested six traffickers in three successful raids in September.
  • Increased training and public awareness efforts on trafficking, including for judicial officials, diplomats, civil society groups, and overseas foreign workers.
  • In December, the Philippine Congress appropriated over $1 million in the 2011 national budget to, for the first time, fund the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s anti-trafficking programs.

Source: taken directly from the US State Department Interim Report on Human Trafficking

However, the government, has yet to obtain a labor trafficking conviction since the 2003 anti-trafficking law’s enactment.

Anti-Trafficking Hotline

As part of the intensified effort to curb trafficking, various government agencies have collaborated to set up a dedicated 24-hour hotline to receive reports of trafficking cases or requests for interception or rescue. The toll-free 1343 Actionline dubbed “Laban Kontra Human Trafficking” campaign is accessible both in Manila and in the provinces by dialing Manila’s area code (02).

The hotline is linked to other government offices involved in combating human trafficking; complaints are centralized and all concerned agencies simultaneously, in real time. Each complaint is tagged and given a tracking number. A turn-around time of 24 hours is targeted for crisis resolution, and 48 hours for verification of complaints.

“We partnered with a business process outsource center to put a tracking system in place and monitor updates, status and resolution of each reported case,” Regina Galias, chief emigrant services officer for the Commission of Overseas Filipinos. The hotline will serve as a database of human trafficking cases. Previously, the various government agencies all had separate hotlines, making consolidation and tracking of cases difficult.

“We’re confident that we will be taken off the Watch List this year,” said Vice President, Jejomar Binay.

Jean Enriquez, executive director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) agrees, but cautiously. “Judging from the interim report, it seems it will be [de-listed from the watchlist].  But the Philippine government must show its consistency in its commitment to understand the issue and in helpin victims prosecute their perpetrators,” Enriquez said.

While there are no official national databases to track the number of trafficking cases in the country, the US Department estimated it at 800,000 each year with many trafficked victims being ushered out of the country by boat via Zamboanga to Malaysia en route to the Middle East. The Philippines was identified in the 2010 US State Department Trafficking Report as a source, transit and destination point of victims of human trafficking, an industry that is estimated to be valued at $32 billion.


Sex trafficking: the power of feminist conversations (last of a five part series)

 It seems highly unlikely.  

Jean Enriquez, executive director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW-Asia Pacific), whose day job naturally includes putting pimps behind bars was brought to tears several times during this interview.  

But just as Jean herself says, and as I was about to discover, such is the power of feminist conversations.  

The first tears come when I ask Jean to tell me about herself.  

“That’s such an open-ended question”, Jean says, stumped. “Where do I even begin to answer that?”  

“Just tell me the first thing that comes to mind,” I say, encouragingly.  

“Single mother”, she says and her eyes turn misty. “I’m really proud of my 20 year-old daughter, Janica. Though I never really imposed my convictions on her, she is growing up to be quite a feminist herself. She feels deeply about the discrimination against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) community and Muslim people. I was very surprised to see how sharp and precise her analyses are.” Jean says, proudly.  

The early onset of feminist activism seems to run in the family as Jean’s own brand of activism, also started at an early age.  

“When I was in 13, I was already speaking against the Marcos Administration at the rallies in Mendiola. I knew no fear — maybe because I was very idealistic. People were awed and listened to me and what I had to say.” says Jean.  

What Jean calls her ‘feminist awakening’ came later in university.  

Discovering her feminist voice  

“The other political ideologies that I read about were not relatable. When I read about feminism, it was holistic. It took up issues like relationships, which at that young age preoccupied me. I began to understand the power play between men and women.”, says Jean who also admits that the writings of feminism became particularly poignant at this time because she started engaging in casual relationships of her own.  

“I got involved in relationships without emotions. I went bed-hopping thinking that it would empower me. I only felt I was beautiful when I was sexually active.”, Jean shares, slightly shuddering at the memory.  

“You think you are so beautiful because you’re wanted, when really, you feel like a rug that is being used. You come to realize that even if you are intelligent, educated and respectable, there is no difference between you and a paid woman.”  

“I got pregnant when I was 20 and got married. I was irresponsible and thought having a child by him was love. It turned out to be a violent and abusive relationship which I eventually left.”  

Jean shares this experience of confusion, experimentation and resilience at youth camps the CATW – AP holds. “I don’t want them [the youth] to go through that. I believe that feminism is about empowering ourselves and re-building the self esteem that has been eroded by the media, by men and even by other women.”  

The complexities of sex trafficking  

Throughout her academic life and NGO career, Jean has been on the forefront of cutting edge women’s issues like reproductive health and later on, sex trafficking.  

Tracing this back, Jean says that it was in 1998 when she first became exposed to how women become vulnerable to sex trafficking because their fishing grounds or farms were converted into resorts or malls. “In the mining lands of Western Mindanao, they were being forced to sell their land. They were displaced and for lack of other means, they allowed themselves to be trafficked into prostitution. It is very sad, but within the small mining community, the girls are sold to the miners and the developers.” she says.  

“Sex trafficking is a complex issue which is linked to other issues like economics, poverty, and development. Muslim girls who have fallen victim to sex trafficking are highly stigmatized and sometimes forced to remain silence to save their family honor.”  

“This issue is close to my heart because it deals with the marginalized women in society. The victims are often made to be invisible. Until now, there are not many focused on this issue.” Jean says, and her voice catches in her throat. “Each cases of rape, of incest, of sex trafficking affects me.”  

Tireless, relentless  

 After more than two decades, Jean remains relentless in the fight for women’s rights. CATW-AP, under Jean’s leadership, was one of the women’s groups that were instrumental in the passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law in 2003. Currently, CATW-AP is lobbying for the passage of the Anti-Prostitution Law which de-criminalizes prostitutes, but will prosecute buyers and sellers. 

“Don’t you ever get tired?” I ask her.  

Jean does not hesitate before answering.  

“You know, we conduct trainings on violence against women for men. Some of the men, when they come in appear to be really cocky and arrogant. At the end of the training, you can see their illumination and new found conviction. Some even become peer educators themselves. Isn’t that so energizing? How do you quantify the women we have rescued thanking us for making such a difference in their life? When you see that your work can have that kind of effect on people, will you even think about the need to rest?” The rhetorical questions are answered, even before they are asked.

Jean removes her glasses to wipe away fresh tears. “I will not ever get tired of that.” Jean says, with a quiet conviction in her voice.  

And such is the power of the feminist conversation. Its empathy connects one woman to another regardless of superficial differences like age and background; its infinite tenderness softens the heart of even the hardest man; and its power inspires, nurtures and heals all those whom it touches.