THE PHILIPPINES (TIER 2 Watch List) [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]
The Philippines is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant number of Filipino men and women who migrate abroad for work are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Palau, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Muslim Filipina girls from Mindanao were trafficked to the Middle East by other Muslims.
Filipinas are also trafficked abroad for commercial sexual exploitation, primarily to Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Internally, women and children are trafficked from poor farming communities in the Visayas and Mindanao to urban areas such as Manila and Cebu City, but also increasingly to cities in Mindanao, for commercial sexual exploitation or for forced labor as domestic servants or factory workers. An increasing number of women and children from Mindanao were trafficked internally and transnationally for domestic work. Traffickers used land and sea transportation to transfer victims from island provinces to major cities. A growing trend continued to be the use of budget airline carriers to transport victims out of the country. Traffickers used fake travel documents, falsified permits, and altered birth certificates. Migrant workers were often subject to violence, threats, inhumane living conditions, non-payment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents. A small number of women are occasionally trafficked from the People’s Republic of China, Russia, South Korea, and Eastern Europe to the Philippines for commercial sexual exploitation. NGOs suggested that organized crime syndicates, including syndicates from Japan, were heavily involved in Manila’s commercial sex industry, where there are many domestic and some foreign victims of trafficking. International organized crime syndicates also transited trafficked persons from mainland China through the Philippines to third country destinations. Child sex tourism continues to be a serious problem for the Philippines, with sex tourists coming from Northeast Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to engage in sexual activity with minors.
The Government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in convicting trafficking offenders, particularly those responsible for labor trafficking; therefore, the Philippines is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Although there was an increase in the number of trafficking cases filed in court, only four trafficking convictions were obtained under the 2003 anti-trafficking law during the reporting period, and there were no reported labor trafficking convictions, despite widespread reports of Filipinos trafficked for forced labor within the country and abroad. The number of convictions for sex trafficking offenders is low given the significant scope and magnitude of sex trafficking within the country and to destinations abroad. Achieving more tangible results in convicting trafficking offenders, and in investigating and prosecuting officials complicit in trafficking, is essential for the Government of the Philippines to make more progress toward compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
Recommendations for the Philippines: Significantly improve efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking; dedicate more resources to efforts to prosecute trafficking cases; assess methods to measure and address domestic labor trafficking; implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns directed at domestic and foreign clients of the sex trade in the Philippines; dedicate increased funding for the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and improve anti-trafficking coordination between government agencies; disseminate information on the 2003 law throughout the country; and train law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the use of the 2003 law.
The government’s ability to effectively prosecute trafficking crimes is severely limited by an inefficient judicial system and endemic corruption. Despite a 2005 Department of Justice circular instructing that all trafficking cases receive preferential attention, trials often take years to conclude, because of a lack of judges and courtrooms, high judge turnover, and non-continuous trials, which cause some victims to withdraw their testimony. Prosecutors with the DOJ’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force handle trafficking cases along with many other types of cases, but receive special training to handle trafficking cases. A high vacancy rate among judges significantly slowed trial times further. In 2008, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) filed 318 administrative cases against licensed labor recruiters who used fraudulent and deceptive offers to entice job seekers abroad or imposed inappropriately high or illegal fees on prospective employees. There were seven convictions under the illegal recruitment law in 2008.
Corruption among law enforcement agents remained pervasive, and some law enforcement and immigration officers were complicit in trafficking and permitted organized crime groups involved in trafficking to conduct their illegal activities. It is widely believed that some government officials were directly involved in or profited from trafficking operations within the country. Law enforcement officers often extracted protection money from illegitimate businesses, including brothels, in return for tolerating their operation. During the reporting period, there were several reports of immigration officials involved in the trafficking of Filipinos overseas. The government conducted investigations during the year into official complicity or involvement in trafficking, but cases were still pending. The government did not prosecute or convict any officials for trafficking-related corruption during the reporting period. In September 2008, an Immigration officer was apprehended for her alleged role in aiding the trafficking of 17 Mindanao children to Syria and Jordan, but charges against her were dropped due to insufficient evidence. The 2005 case of police officer Dennis Reci, charged for allegedly trafficking minors for commercial sexual exploitation at his night club in Manila, was still pending in early 2009.