Many OFWs victimized – US State Dep't

By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington bureau, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 21 2014 09:05 AM | Updated as of Jun 21 2014 05:05 PM

WASHINGTON – A significant number of Filipinos who migrate abroad looking for work are subsequently subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Asia, throughout the Middle East and increasingly in Europe, the US State Department said.

At the same time, forced labor and sex trafficking of women and children within the country, principally in Manila and Cebu and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerto Galera and Surigao, remained a significant problem.

The Philippines does not fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, the State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said.

For the fourth straight year, the Philippines kept its Tier 2 status in the TIP report.

The report said law enforcement officials’ complicity in human trafficking remained a problem and government corruption enabled traffickers to operate with impunity.

It said areas affected by disaster or conflict were particularly vulnerable to trafficking syndicates.

Although the full extent of the effect on trafficking of Super Typhoon Yolanda was not known, there were isolated reports of trafficking and illegal recruiting, the report said.

The typhoon caused widespread damage in Leyte and Samar, resulting in the displacement of more than four million people.

The report said in 2013, the government obtained 31 trafficking convictions compared with 25 during the previous year.

It said corruption at all levels, including in Philippine diplomatic missions abroad, enabled traffickers and undermined the government’s overall efforts to combat trafficking.

It said the government should increase efforts to hold officials criminally accountable for trafficking and trafficking-related offenses.

Also in the report were victims’ testimonies, including two Filipino cases illustrating the many forms of trafficking.

In the first case, “Czar” and three of his friends, with dreams of successful boxing careers, fell prey to three Australians who paid for their travel from the Philippines to Sydney, only to be forced into unpaid domestic labor as “houseboys.”

When Czar after three months finally entered a boxing match, he won about $3,500 but the money was taken by his captor.

Shortly thereafter, he was able to escape and report to the police. The case is under investigation.

In the second case, “Marie” left the Philippines for a job as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia but spent her time there being sold from employer to employer.

After a stay in hospital from severe beating, she was sent back home to the Philippines and has never been paid for her months of work.

Of a total of 187 countries rated in the report, 31 were deemed compliant with US efforts to fight trafficking and grouped in Tier 1.

The Philippines and 88 other countries adjudged to be making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking were in Tier 2.

A total of 44 countries were in the Tier 2 Watch List category and 23 were in Tier 3.