Philippines called to curb trafficking

Manila, Philippines — UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons Joy Ngozi Ezelio presented yesterday the results of her fact-finding visit to examine the human trafficking situation in the country, as well as assess the impact of existing anti-trafficking measures.

Ezelio’s five-day visit included travel to meetings with President Ninoy Aquino, government agencies and NGOs’ involved in combatting human trafficking, as well as visits to Cebu and Zamboanga, which are known to be departure ports for transporting trafficked victims out of the country.

“The Philippines is undoubtedly a source country for human trafficking with its citizens being trafficked in different parts of the world,” said Ezelio, citing factors such as growing poverty, unequal access to employment, gender violence, as well as internal armed conflict as among the factors that contribute to human trafficking.


Human trafficking, which has been identified as the fastest growing criminal activity after drugs and gun smuggling, has long been a problem in the Philippines.

In 2010, the Philippines was in danger of being downgraded by the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report to the Tier 2 Watchlist, meaning that it failed to show evidence of trying to meet minimum standards set out in the internationally recognized Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Despite the passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003, the Philippines made little progress in prosecuting traffickers and curbing trafficking.

As another Tier 2 Rating would result in the withdrawal of millions of dollars in non-humanitarian US aid, the Philippine government moved to make drastic interventions.

In 2011,  the Tier 2 Watch List rating was listed, which activists contributed mostly to the fact that in one year, there were 25 new trafficking convictions, more than the total number of convictions in the past seven years.

While Ezelio acknowledged the government’s efforts of policies, programmes and engagement of various sectors to combat trafficking, but also cited areas of improvement which she observed during her visit.

Lack of accurate data

“There is a lack of standardized collection of statistical data on trafficking cases to effectively determine the prevalence rate, forms, trends and manifestations of human trafficking. Data is confusing and different among different agencies,” said Ezelio.

“Enforcement of the law and assistance to victims is not uniform in all areas of the country and depends on the political will of the local governments,” added Ezelio.

The lack of accurate data points to the government’s focus of government programs and policies to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation. There is less attention given to internal trafficking for labor exploitation, which according to Ezelio is also an area of concern.

Fine line between migration and trafficking

“There is a thin line between migration and trafficking. It is known world wide that there is a huge number of Filipino migrant workers. We recognize and encourage migration in line with development, but the root causes of trafficking and migration overlap to a great extent. Thus, poverty and demands for cheap and exploitative labor need to be effectively addressed.”

Men who have often trafficked for slave labor are also victims, sometimes overlooked.

New technology

Ezelio also pointed to the use of new technologies to recruit new victims in trafficking is a new phenomena.

“Victims are recruited through Facebook. I met victims who are searching for jobs in jobsites, applied and were accepted. They were already] at the airport and still did not know who they were talking to and were then trafficked into slavery,” Ezelio said.

Fraudulent recruitment has also be noted on other social networking sites like Facebook.

Wake-up call

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, an organization that provides migrant rights called the visit of the UNSR a “wake-up call”. “It is a great honor to be visited, but it also means we are in the hot seat,” Martinez said in the vernacular.

Martinez called on the government to extend its efforts to combat trafficking to include investigation those among its ranks.

“Kailan lang, nag-repatriate kami ng 16 year-old trafficked victim. Sixteen! Pero ang nakasaad sa passport nya 23 years old na sya. Paano nakakakuha ng ganitong government authenticated documents kung walang kinalaman ang mga nasa loob?”

[“We recently repatriated a 16 year old trafficked victim. She was 16, but her passport said she was 23 years old. How was she able to secure government authenticated documents like this without the help of someone inside?”]

Commenting on the government’s improved rating on the US State Department’s Watchlist, Martinez said, “Ang pag-tanggal natin sa Tier 2, hindi nangangahulugan ng pag-tanggal ng trafficking. Di sana ningas-kugon ang gobyerno na pag-init ang isyu, masipag sila, tapos mawawala din.”

“Removal from the Tier 2 Watchlist does not connote the eradication of trafficking. The government cannot be indecisive about this [trafficking] when they only act when the issue is heatedly discussed and then their efforts wane.”]

Ezelio’s will present the full report of her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013.


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.