Davao City – Affording services to victims of trafficking for their recovery and reintegration into the society remains unfulfilled by government agencies a group said, Friday.
“While there is a law ensuring the rights and welfare of victims of trafficking, until now their recovery and reintegration remains a challenge,” said Jeanette Laurel-Ampog, Executive Director of Talikala, Incorporated during a film forum in commemoration of the International Day Against Human Trafficking.
“Poverty, lack of opportunity and services still exist, therefore there’s a big possibility that they will fall victims of trafficking again,” Ampog said.
President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10364 or An Act Expanding Republic Act 9208, entitled An Act to Institute Policies to Eliminate Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, Establishing the Necessary Institutional Mechanisms for the Protection and Support of Trafficked Persons, Providing Penalties for its Violations and for other Purposes, last February 6, 2013.
Ampog appealed to the barangay leaders, parents, and victims of trafficking to call on government to afford services for the trafficked persons.
“I hope our barangay officials, parents and victims would call on the government to provide services for the trafficked persons so that they would not be victimized anymore. It doesn’t matter how many forums we launch, if they will not be provided with services, the number of victims of trafficking will continue to increase, not only for sexual exploitation and forced labor but also organ trafficking,” Ampog said.
Ampog said that organ trafficking has become a cottage industry in one municipality in Surigao where victims sell their kidneys.
“That is how grave our situation is, people are selling their internal organs so that they could feed their families,” Ampog said.
Ampog, on the other hand, believes that the government should not only provide services for trafficked persons but to all vulnerable sectors of society.
“Prevention is better than cure,” she said adding that it would be more cost efficient for the government if it could prevent trafficking.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Southern Mindanao secretary general, Mary Ann Sapar said that providing regular jobs and access to basic social services is still the best action to fight human trafficking.
“We can see from the documentary film that the women who are forced into prostitution and who fall as victims of trafficking are deprived of jobs and basic social services like education. That’s why resolving the issue of poverty is still the deciding factor to end human trafficking,” Sapar said.
Davao City’s Interagency Council against Trafficking XI Network (IACAT XI Network) together with government and non government agencies also held a parade in the city last Friday.
Atty. Arnold Arellano, co-chair of IACAT said that the first group that should initiate the campaign is the people of the barangay level, particularly headed by the barangay captain.
“We believe that the campaign against human trafficking should go to the level where everything starts, and it starts in the barangay,” he said.
“The council alone cannot be effective, there has to be a mechanism for purposes of operation on the ground,” Arellano said.
He added that they are inviting different local agencies, prosecutors, LGUs and NGOs, in trainings about the basics of human trafficking including the existing laws, the advocacies and psycho-social management.
Ampog likewise, believes that the barangay should be equipped with regards to the issue of human trafficking.
“We call on the barangay officials together with the purok leaders to initiate education campaign in the community regarding the dangers of human trafficking. There are lots of structures in the barangay which could lead in educating the community including the Barangay Council on the Protection of Children and the Barangay Council of Women,” Ampog said.
Ampog added that the barangay lacks in terms of knowledge on what trafficking is.
“They think that the person will just be working in another place and yet it is already a trafficking case. If the barangay will be equipped and will be made vigilant on the issue they can come up with actions to prevent trafficking,” she said.
Talikala Davao has recorded 114 victims of sex trafficking this year in a number of communities where they work including barangays in Sasa, Leon Garcia, 76-A and Lapulapu.
According to data from the IACAT, as of April this year, 2,359 cases in violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act law have been filed since the law was enacted in 2003. However, only 127 of these—or 5 percent—resulted in convictions as of April 2014. (With reports from Sarah Grace Andaya, Davao Today Intern)