Fil-Ams decry human trafficking | Global News

Fil-Ams decry human trafficking

/ 08:18 PM November 05, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet President Benigno Aquino III on November 15 to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues and possibly human trafficking.

“She will meet with the President,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, told Manila-based reporters about Clinton coming trip, her second visit to the Philippines as US State Secretary under the Obama administration but her first under the Aquino administration.

The scheduled top-level meeting comes as Filipino Americans in New York and nearby states, led by the National Alliances for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan USA) staged a protest rally against human trafficking in front of the Philippine Consulate General office in Manhattan.


During the rally, the organizers belied the Aquino administration’s claim that human trafficking is no longer a problem in the Philippines.


Nafcon and Bayan USA said, “The Philippines’ so called improved ranking on the US Watchlist on countries on Human Trafficking is deceiving and hypocritical as aggressive labor trafficking operations from the Philippines to the U.S. continue under the Aquino administration.”

Both groups called for a broad multi-ethnic cooperation and support to stop what they described as an “epidemic of labor trafficking” to the U.S. from the developing countries like the Philippines. They said labor trafficking is a form of human trafficking and should be stopped immediately.

In June, the State Department came out with its annual Trafficking in Persons report stating that the Philippines’ status has improved and prevented Manila from falling into Tier 3, which would have stopped most U.S. aid, except those purely for humanitarian purposes.

In the same report, the State Department acknowledged Manila’s “intensified effort,” citing the conviction of 25 offenders compared to only nine in the previous year, including the first ever case on forced labor.

However, Berna Ellorin, chairperson of Bayan dismissed the Aquino government’s human trafficking record as a case of “too little, too late.”

“The Philippine government is not doing anything to stop human trafficking … It is actually pushing it,” Ellorin said.


“In fact, the offices [under the Department of Labor] and their anomalous dealings with recruiters in work visa scams look more like one big human trafficking syndicate raking in profits for the Philippine government and these traffickers than anything else,” she added.

Under a joint campaign dubbed “Communities United Against Labor Trafficking,” the two groups called attention to the government-facilitated Labor Export Program (LEP) and the alleged culpability of agencies like the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) which have dealings with foreign recruiters undertaking labor trafficking operations such as the U.S.-based SentosaCare LLC.

“What happened to the Sentosa nurses is unfortunately a common problem here in the U.S. But their inspiring example to fight for justice and to shutdown SentosaCare LLC has also inspired many other victims of labor trafficking to step forward and fight with massive community support,” said Mara Ibarra, Nafcon spokesperson.

Ellorin adds, “This is not a Filipino problem. This is a problem of every underdeveloped country in the world with a government milking its overseas workers for remittances to prop up sinking economies they refuse to fix.”

For many years, Nafcon and Bayan USA have helped Filipinos trafficked to the US as hotel workers. Among the prominent cases were the Florida 15, Adman 11 and Arizona 34. Most cases involved work visa scams in the H1-B and H2-B visa categories or long-term or contract-based employment visa categories.

Florida 15 is a group of Filipino workers who were victimized by their Filipino employer Jose Villanueva, who owns a recruitment and employment company San Villa Ship Management Co. In July, the victims left their employer in Miami and sought the assistance the group.

“In the case of the Philippines, President Aquino’s economic policies are to blame for human trafficking,” Ellorin said, adding that the government’s failure to eradicate deepening poverty and joblessness force Filipinos to seek work abroad and often fall into these labor trafficking schemes.

At the same time, the Aquino government continues to allow traffickers like SentosaCare LLC maintain their recruitment licenses with the POEA despite public outcry, she added.

Nafcon and Bayan USA urged Aquino to completely stop labor trafficking operations from the Philippines and called on Congress to investigate the complicity of the POEA and other agencies the victimized workers in the U.S. have implicated in the trafficking mess.

The groups also called for the immediate release of public funds from the budgets of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) for legal defense and relief for Filipino victims of human trafficking to the U.S., many of who are forced into undocumented status because of work visa scams.

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“The Philippine government has the power to right these wrongs and shutdown these labor trafficking syndicates. It also has the ample funds to assist trafficking victims. The Aquino government needs to prove in action, not just in rhetoric, which side it is really on—that of the traffickers or the trafficking victims,” Ibarra said.

TAGS: American, Filipino, Human trafficking, Immigration, Migration

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