DAVAO CITY – Various church groups today vowed to stand against human trafficking describing it as an “absolute evil” which denies dignity of the victims.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) together with the International Justice Mission (IJM) joined the fight against human trafficking through the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT).

December 12 marks fifteen years of international action on human trafficking. The UN Protocol to Prevent, Punish, Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was adopted on 12 December 2000.

The Philippines has enacted laws that specifically target human trafficking and established the IACAT (Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking) under the DOJ.

But Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said “so much more needs to be done, and both churches and government need to continue to increase efforts in bringing an end to this evil”.

The church groups believed that government efforts against human trafficking have “diminished, especially the support and resources being provided for the work of IACAT.”

The NCCP in a statement also said human trafficking is an activity that takes many different forms “from recruitment into prostitution, children being forced into labor, people being lured overseas where they are deceived into selling their organs, seamen who are deceived into working on illegal and unregistered fishing boats, deprived of wages and often abandoned on foreign shores.”

“There are many of our migrant workers, who become victims of trafficking, they are either lured by unscrupulous recruiters in the Philippines into situations of exploitation or once in another country, find themselves in situations where they become undocumented migrants and subject to the predatory activity of human traffickers abroad,” said Fr. Rex Reyes of the NCCP.

Evelyn Pingul of the International Justice Mission (IJM) said “one very disturbing trend is the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), where children as young as 5 or even 2 years old have been used by close relatives, family friends or even parents to perform sex acts on live internet streaming for customers in other countries.”

“While the victims may not be physically taken anywhere, they are virtually trafficked, and this clearly qualifies as human trafficking,” said Pingul.

Pingul said in the 21 cases of online sexual exploitation where IJM has intervened in the Philippines, 102 victims have been rescued.

“Of these 102 victims 87% are minors, with 56% of them 12 years or younger; 87% are female while 13% are male; and 41% of the cases where victims were rescued involved victims who are siblings,” she added.

Meanwhile, Fr. Reyes said “as churches we need to make a clear stand against human trafficking, it is the ultimate denial of the dignity conferred on every human being when we are created in the image of God.”

“To reduce another person to slavery is a blasphemy against the living God,” he said.

For his part, Bishop Noel Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said that “human trafficking is an absolute evil, it is the work of the prince of lies, because those who engage in human trafficking betray the trust of others, by deception or playing on the poverty and hardship of others, to rob them of their freedom and reduce them to servitude.”

“As Christians we must make a stand in the fight against human trafficking, and support those who have become its victims,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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