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Traffickers' prey: The young and helpless - -- NO to Trafficking --

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Traffickers' prey: The young and helpless
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Nov 02, 2016 at 08:00 AM

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By JULIET C. REVITA, November 02, 2016
 
HOW many innocent children have suffered and still suffering? How many dreams have shattered because of false promises? How many more young lives will be the next victim of child trafficking?

The numbers are mounting every day, in this modern slave trade. With the increasing population, in the height of globalization, and post-modern technologies that enable people from across the world to reach out wherever they wish to, the vulnerable and the young are easily siphoned into the dark side of development.

Child trafficking is classified as the illegal recruitment, transport, transfer, and housing of any person by different methods. This also involves resorting to force or any other forms of restraint, through kidnapping, deceit, fraud, as well as the abuse of authority.

There are also cases where the child’s organs are sold. Some of the victims are enticed to do so because of dire straits, selling their kidneys in a trade that only benefits the traffickers never the sellers.

Then there are those who traffick for sex, whether online or physically, the youngest victim recorded being just two years old.

According to the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Davao, there are 76 cases served by the regional office from January to July. It's a mix of sexual exploitation and forced labor that include victims from outside Davao Region. The highest number came from Davao City with 42 cases.

According to Janet Arendain, DSWD-Davao social worker assigned to child trafficking cases, the number of cases in Davao City is expected, it being a highly urbanized city with a dense population, the combination of which is enticing for traffickers.

The rest of the cases of trafficking were distributed around the region, to wit, Compostela Valley has 4, Davao del Sur (6), Davao Oriental (6), Davao del Norte (10), Surigao del Sur (1) and North Cotabato (3).
Sara Jane Escabarte, a social worker of Talikala Inc., a non-government organization (NGO) working with prostituted women and children, said that children who lack stability in their home, are not in a secure environment, and lack a sense of identity are the easiest prey to prostitution, many of whom resort to this for the sake of survival.

Most disturbing, Escabarte said, is that these children are sold for sexual exploitation to multiple people with the pimp getting a high profit and leaving just pittance for the child.

Escabarte said children are gullible especially because poverty is a daily reality. With no family to protect them, as most come from dysfunctional families, and their poor socio-economic conditions, the promise of a better life or a little bit more money is difficult to turn down.

"Human trafficking is a grave human rights offense to our less-fortunate Filipinos who just want to live a convenient life. Let us continue to fight against human trafficking by reporting these cases to authorities," said DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Trafficked survivor Rida is among the survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation that Talikala Inc. was able to help.

Rida was 10 when her parents separated. From then on, no one was there to guide her and attend to her needs. Feeling unwanted, she sought companionship with her peers that led her to party with them till dawn.

One night, Rida said, one of her friend stopped a taxi and she heard her ask the driver, "Shine?"

An older woman who was with them then negotiated with the driver while pointing to her. After that, she was made to ride a taxi, the driver of whom brought her to a dark place and do as a "shine girl" does.

Rida was paid P100 for that, which she used to buy food for herself and her friends. The next night was the same, driven by the need to provide for herself and party with her gang.

From "shine girl" she was brought by their gay gang leader to Mati City, who enticed her with the thought of traveling and adventure. She ended up as a dancer in a honky-tonk club. Her salary was being kept by her pimp, she said.

After three months, when she already had enough money, she escaped and returned to Davao City. But because she does not have enough for her own upkeep, she went back to selling her body. That was when a friend introduced her to Talikala, which assisted and counseled her.

Recalling how Talikala helped her made her burst in tears. She is thankful that she was helped without being judged. Having been helped out of the trap, she hoped to raise awareness among other prostituted children and other potential victims on how child trafficking works.

Alma Acera, regional secretary of Inter-Agency Council of Counter-Trafficking (IACAT), said that the those rescued from trafficking are given assistance and intervention in terms of physical health, psychosocial well-being, economic security, legal protection, including repatriation and witness protection.

Acera added trafficking cannot be addressed without the collective efforts of the community, thus, DSWD has collaborates with various individuals, agencies/organizations at the international, national and local levels in order to effectively deliver assistance and measures needed by the victims.

DSWD has established a referral system for the different agencies tasked to take care of specific needs of trafficked persons.

Although government agencies have the obligation to respond to the concerns of trafficked persons, they need to coordinate, cooperate and collaborate with NGOs and civil society as a whole to achieve such goals.

The DSWD has been strengthening the enforcement of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 also known as Republic Act 9208 created the IACAT which is the over-all national policy and coordinating body.

IACAT was composed of several government agencies and representatives of NGOs from the children, women and overseas Filipino workers’ sectors.

The IACAT created an Inter-Agency Committees Against Trafficking in Persons and Violence Against Women and Children (IACAT-VAWC) at the regional (RIACAT-VAWC), provincial (PIACAT-VAWC), city/municipal (M/CIACAT-VAWC) levels for speedy response and prevention.

There is also the national help line 1343 and other local help lines such as the 8888 that could intercede for potential victims of trafficking and exploitation especially in times of disaster.

Talikala Inc., having long recognized that many of those trafficked are prostituted, counter human trafficking by conducting information dissemination through trainings and seminars within the city and areas where there is high risk of trafficking.

As it is now, Talikala said, there is a need to improve the law enforcement system because there is still a hesitation among victims to call for assistance from law enforcers.

Kean Gabriel Hotline

Aside from the national help line, the Davao City Government through the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) had earlier launched the Kean Gabriel Hotline which seeks to help abused children. The hotline is named after four-year-old Kean Gabriel who died after suffering from corporal punishment by his parents.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was incensed by Kean's death, she ordered the establishment of the hotline.

The Kean Gabriel Hotline is: 0908-8184444. Report any child abuse case through texting or calling.
A team will be dispatched to rescue the abused child. The hotline is under the Quick Response Team for Children Center of City Social Services and Development Office, operating 24/7.

The hotline is an inter-department effort, said Lorna Mandin, head of the Integrated Gender Development Division, noting that it involves her office, the City Health Office, Central 911, the Philippine National Police and the CSSDO.

“It is primarily for prevention of child abuse. A help line for either the ‘victim’ or the witness of abuse happening in the community,” Mandin said.

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