PCTC Paper on Trafficking in Persons




            Migration may be viewed as a form of socio-economic emancipation for some people, an escape from restrictive social and political conditions in the place of origin, or a realization of a desire for some change in lifestyle and adventure. [1]


Dictated by economic want and the need to escape from adverse conditions at home, labor migration in the 1970s and ‘80s became a form of individual survival strategy that many governments have since developed and institutionalized into official economic programs that export massive numbers of workers. To date, there are estimated seven million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) distributed in 129 countries. Since their remittances totaling to US$13.16B from January to July 1998, have greatly helped in keeping the economy afloat and uplifting their family's standard of living, their outflow could not just be regulated nor controlled.


Over the past ten years, in some countries, the volume of women migrant workers has gradually surpassed that of men. Being more fragile and vulnerable than men, women often find themselves in hostile foreign settings, unprotected by local or international laws. Some women are led to expect legitimate work but end up in prostitution.  The wages they receive, which are much lower than what they expected or were promised, force them to submit to prostitution. Still, others take chances and leave the country illegally either as tourist or fiancée and engage in fixed marriages, or even be transported in cargo boxes, freezer vans and drums. Thus, trafficking is a potential outcome of labor migration.


The illegal recruitment, clandestine transport and exploitation of women as prostitutes, and the organized prostitution of children of both sexes in a number of countries are well documented. A link has been established in some places between prostitution and pornography and the promotion and growth of tourism.[2]


The development of tourism as a world industry, supported by international financing institutions in the 1970’s as a development strategy, exposed the developing countries to exploitation under the cover of new tourist destinations. Aggressive tourism promotion policies were adopted by a number of governments in the region. Sadly, a large number of male tourists are more inclined to sexual adventure in exotic places, thus, the routes and the business of sex tourism were firmly established.[3]


The smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons have increased tremendously throughout the world mainly because of the involvement of Organized Crime Groups (OCGs). The trafficking in persons by OCGs undermines established immigration policies of the destination countries and often involves human rights abuses. Persons illegally brought into other countries are treated as parties to a criminal transaction but in reality they are themselves victims in the economic, physical or moral sense. Often deceived by unrealistic promises and unfounded opportunities in the destination country, most end up engaging in prostitution or criminal activities in order to pay for the expenses incurred. Indeed, OCGs commit the offense of both smuggling and human trafficking. This has become a major activity and a source of income of criminal organizations at the national and international levels.


Migrant workers, recruiters and traffickers of women prefer more developed countries with lax policies towards visitors and immigrants. Yet, tighter immigration and entry laws, ostensibly enacted to curtail the influx of foreigners seeking a better life, result in more women being smuggled in. One key factor here that determines variations in laws towards visitors and immigrants is the factor of citizenship. Citizenship determines to a great extent the political, social and civil rights enjoyed by people, which in turn, have a direct relationship with their economic rights and hence, the class position and mobility that they enjoy. The futility of law and legal reforms in the area of immigration, and the strict implementation of citizenship laws in individual countries only point to the greater necessity of addressing the economic and other societal problems within sending countries which compel their women to migrate.


The nature of trafficking in persons needs more attention, not much on the emigration of men but on the emigration of women and children. The immigration of foreign nationals is also considered a State concern. The emigration of women and immigration of foreign nationals have advantages but more often than not, the disadvantages far outweigh the social, political and economic repercussions on both the countries of origin and destination.




            For the purpose of this paper and to be able to better describe trafficking in persons, there is a need to define terms related to it.


1.          Trafficking in Persons – it is the recruitment, transportation or receipt of persons through deception or coercion for the purpose of prostitution, other sexual exploitation or forced labor.


2.          Smuggling – the offense of importing or exporting prohibited articles without paying the duties chargeable upon them. The fraudulent taking into a country or out of it, merchandise which is lawfully prohibited.


3.          Person – in general usage, a human being though by statute term may include a firm, labor organization, partnership, association, corporation, legal representative or receiver. This paper will use the term person as a human being.


4.          Migrant – person who moves from one place or country to another with the objective of making profit or improvement of life.


5.          Migration – movement from one place to another or from one country or region to another country or region.


6.          Emigration – the act of removing from one country to another, with no intention to return.


7.          Immigration – the coming into a country of foreigners for the purpose of permanent residence.


8.          Recruitment and placement - an act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers and includes referrals, contract service, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad whether for profit or not.[4]


It would also be helpful to consider the different definitions used by local and international organizations:


Clarke defines Trafficking in Persons as “the bringing in of individual/s to a border bypassing normal immigration procedures”. On the same manner, he further opines that Smuggling in Persons is “the illegal means of entry of individuals to another border for the purpose of illegal activities.” [5]


The United Nations offices suggest: “The smuggling of migrants can be defined as the procurement of illegal entry of a person into a State of which the latter is not a national with the objective of making profit. Trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, transportation or receipt of persons through deception or coercion for the purpose of prostitution, other sexual exploitation or forced labor.”[6]


In the Regional Meeting on Trafficking in Women, Forced Labor and Slavery-Like Practices in Asia-Pacific, held in Bangkok, Thailand on February 19-22, 1997, the participants viewed Trafficking in Women as “all acts involved in the recruitment and/or transport of a woman within and across national border for sale, work or services by means of direct or indirect violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt-bondage, deception and other forms of coercion.”


            Furthermore, the book entitled “Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific” published by the Coalition against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, describe Trafficking in Women as “the transport, sale or purchase of women and girls for profit, gain and any other consideration for purposes of prostitution, bonded labor and sexual enslavement within the country or abroad. It often involves the use of force as in kidnapping and abduction; the use of threat, trickery and false promises as well as all forms of enticement. It operates in conjunction with practices when women are sexually exploited such as in brothel prostitution, military prostitution, sex tours, or marriage matching arrangements”. It further recognizes trafficking in women and prostitution as “situated in a continuum of sexual exploitation that perpetrates and continually reinforces the subordinate status of women. On the same continuum belong forms of sexual violence such as rape, incest, genital mutilation, sexual harassment, pornography as well as sex tourism and bride trade.”


According to Ms. Aurora Javate de Dios, Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia in her introductory speech during the Human Rights Conference on the Trafficking of Asian Women on April 2-4, 1999, trafficking may constitute acts involved the capture and acquisition of women and children for trade and transport with the interest to sell, exchange or use for any illegal purpose such as prostitution, servitude in the guise of marriage, bonded labor or even the sale of human organs.”


            Shamin cited in her paper that to address the issue in its proper context, trafficking of women and children “should include all acts involved in capture and acquisition of women and children for trade and transport with the intent to sell, exchange or use for any illegal purpose such as camel racing, prostitution, servitude in the guise of marriage, bonded labor or sale of human organs. Trafficking occurs in a variety of ways such as promises of jobs or marriage, and at times, including physical violence and kidnapping.”[7]


            Siazon, on the other hand, defined human trafficking from the Philippine experience as "involves the recruitment, transfer and deployment of persons, particularly women and children, through legal and illegal means, with or without the victim's consent or knowledge, within or across national borders, often involving coercion, abuse of authority, debt bondage, deception, and for settlement, work or services, characterized by forced labor, slavery-like practices and prostitution." [8]


Trafficking in persons as a transnational crime, being a newly recognized reality has yet to find an officially adopted definition from the international community. However, there is an emerging consensus defining trafficking in persons as an offense that has an international dimension and involves crossing of at least one border. Despite these differences in its definition, we can draw out at least seven common elements namely:


1.       Person or human being is involved

2.       Profit is the primary objective;

3.       Presence of coercion or deception, violence or threat of violence;

4.       There is the intent to sell, exchange or use for any illegal purpose;

5.       Illegal entry of individual(s) to another border;

6.       Involvement of international organized crime groups;

7.       Money laundering is present.


Thus, we shall adopt the meaning of trafficking in persons, in the Philippine context, as an activity “that involves the recruitment, transfer, and deployment of persons, particularly women and children through legal or illegal means, with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders, often involving coercion, violence, debt-bondage, deception and for settlement, work or services characterized by forced labor, slavery-like practices and prostitution”.[9]




A.                  INTERNATIONAL


The consequence of World War II led to the creation of the United Nations as the answer to the universal yearning for peace and friendship among peoples regardless of color or creed. It was intensified by sending diplomatic representatives to be able to deal more directly and closely with each other in the improvement of their mutual interest. With these developments, migration of people to other places or countries became rampant.


With the massive migration of people abroad, abetted by state policies for the export of labor and the internationalization of labor markets, it becomes the instrument of syndicated groups to proliferate their illegal activities. These syndicated groups such as the Boryokudan (Aka Yakuza) of Japan, Mafia, Chinese Triads, Milliardaire gang of Belgium and Nigerian criminal enterprises are controlled and dominated by highly skilled, heavily armed and very menacing gangs and individuals. In fact, they were able to influence some government officials and law enforcement authorities in most countries for their protection. Their networks are well established and well connected all over the world, which gave rise to the globalization of sex trafficking. The phenomenal movements of women that span the globe; from Asia to Europe, the Americas and Africa; from Latin America to Europe and the United States; from Africa to Europe; and since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the traffic of Eastern Europeans to Israel and to Asian Pacific countries like Thailand, Philippines and Australia are unprecedented.


B.         REGIONAL


Trafficking must also be analyzed in terms of structural inequality between Third World and industrialized countries, which has made of the impoverished populations of countries of the South mere labor and sexual commodities.


In Asia, a combination of declining incomes, economic dislocations as a result of economic recession, natural disasters, political and military wars and conflicts have pushed men, women and children to look for work in other countries or in urban centers of their countries. Citizens of these countries are easily enticed by organized recruiters to work abroad and try their luck. Cross-border movements of refugees running away from increasing militarization, usually women and children as those from Afghanistan and Nepal, present an opportunity for traffickers.[10]


A number of Asian brides who used marriage to foreign nationals as their passport to immigration have been victimized by abusive husbands. Either they are forced into prostitution, be mere sex partners, “punching bags” and worse, end up dead.


Asian women are traded and exported to the industrialized world. A “surplus of women” in these regions renders this possible. Women and children are captured not only for purposes of prostitution, forced or bonded labor, sexual abuse but also for the sale of their organs. Traffickers employ methods in the guise of hiring domestic helpers, salesgirls, factory workers or "entertainers" with promises of good compensation, high wages and benefits to lure their victims. There are known cases of hired domestic helpers being abused by their employers and eventually sold or rented out for sexual services.[11]


There are networks of traffickers and brokers, mostly Pakistanis and Indians with links that extends from Bangladesh, through India into Pakistan where the corrosive practice of slavery goes unchecked. In India, for example, poverty, illiteracy and backwardness are the main reasons for the increase in trafficking of women and children. Wholesale clandestine markets or mondi are to be found in big cities like Calcutta, Agra, Bombay and Hyderabad. Many women and children are being trafficked from the military prostitution industry in Thailand to Germany’s legalized brothels serving tourists, businessmen and sailors. They join the local women and women brought in from other parts of the world to respond to the demand.


As for children, their trafficking can be considered as an invisible problem. The early involvement of children of acutely poor families in economic activities for quick and easy money leads them to prostitution either with or without parental guidance.


Another problem on trafficking of children has been uncovered. This is the use of an innocent child usually from 4-5 years of age for camel racing. He/she is tied on the back of the camel before the start of the race. When the camel starts running, the frightened child starts to shout which makes the camel run faster and makes the race more exciting for the ones betting on it. Heavy children are not suited for these races as the camel cannot run swiftly, thus these children are starved and not given any food before the start of the race. These children were either kidnapped or sold by their parents. Most of these children are smuggled into Dubai and Abu Dhabi as these places are famous for their notorious camel races. Apprehensions have been made to curtail further trafficking of children for this purpose but the sad fact is that it still exists. Land routes via India and Pakistan as well as air routes are used for trafficking children to the Middle East. There are agents in Dhaka and in other parts of the country who are financed by the rich Arabs to procure children. Due to the recent restrictions of Pakistani and Indian children from going to the Middle East, the next country to fall prey was Bangladesh.[12]


Undocumented migrant workers especially women, live under the constant fear of arrest and deportation. Due to their situation, they are forced to sell their bodies in order to survive, or to provide sexual favors in exchange for work, or as bribe to the police in exchange for freedom. One act of prostitution leads to another, until these women find themselves deeply trapped in the trade.




The out-migration of Filipino laborers is not new in history. Since the early 1900s, when the Philippines was still an American colony, many Filipinos have migrated to the United States mainland and Hawaii to work in fruit plantations, canneries and other factories. Majorities of them were male workers from impoverished rural provinces, notably the Ilocos Region. These migrant workers were provided incentives by the U.S. to return to the Philippines to find marital partners and eventually settle down with their wives. Since then, more Filipino women who are single and with relatives in the U.S. migrated.  In the 1950s and 1960s more and more Filipino accountants, nurses, doctors and other health workers went to the U.S. as temporary workers and later as immigrants.


By the mid 1970s, the U.S. was no longer the main destination for Filipino migrants. Bolstered by the oil crisis and strength of its petroleum dollars, petroleum rich Middle Eastern countries experienced an economic boom that necessitated the importation of labor. The Filipino labor force that went to the Middle East in the 1970’s was predominantly male and was based in construction, manufacturing and technical services. With the decline of the industrial construction phase of their economies, the labor demand shifted to administrative, health and domestic workers readily supplied by Filipino women who were dissatisfied with the low wages and poor working conditions in the country. As more and more Filipino women went to the Middle East as nurses, hairdressers, waitresses, and maids, illegal recruiters and traffickers victimized many of them.


Many workers seeking overseas contract work, mostly young women aged 15 to early 20s have been tricked by illegal recruiters, prospective marriage partners, and other shady deals in accepting marriage proposals or non-existent jobs abroad. They fall prey into the hands of white slavers and prostitution rings or joins the ranks of the swelling number of undocumented workers living under fear of harassment, arrest and deportation.


In some parts of Europe, women who are trafficked entered as tourists. They cross the borders on board land vehicles or on foot to reach their country of destination. Spain and Italy are the popular destinations.


While victims may possess travel and employment documents, quite a number of documented cases involved the transport of women by illegal means via air cargo, freezer vans and drums. Gert Ranjo-Libang, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Resources, recalls a story a few years back of women being found dead after they were locked in drums for weeks in a cargo vessel. Another case involved women found frozen dead in a van while being transported across borders in Europe.


The legislation of Republic Act 6955 in 1996 (An Act Declaring Unlawful the Practice of Matching Filipino Women to Foreign Nationals on Mail Order Basis or Other Similar Practices), did not prevent the continuous increase in the number of mail-order brides. We can attribute this proliferation to a large extent to the Internet.




Schemes or modes in trafficking in persons may be categorized in the following manner:


            A. Inter-marriages


As a consequence of inter-marriage as a form of migration, problems and issues have appeared unexpectedly. One aspect prioritized by the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) is the Mail-Order Bride that involves a lot of Filipino women. The following are the modus operandi in the trafficking of women:


1.                   Serial/Multiple Sponsorship


Under this scheme, foreign nationals come to the Philippines to sponsor Filipino applicants for visa to their country. To facilitate and legitimize the application, the Filipina is introduced as a fiancée, then arrangements for the visa is processed with the help, for a fee, of the would-be husband. Upon approval and arrival abroad, the fiancée either separates from her partner or pursues employment in the foreign country or treats her for illegal employment. The foreigner then goes back to the target country and repeats the same scheme.


2.         Trafficking by Introduction by Marriage Bureaus, Deception, Marriage for a Fee, Migration through Marriages


According to Ms. Lucille Ronda, Representative of the CFO during the First Conference of Trafficking on Humans at the PCTC, marriage brokers usually get as much as P300-P400 thousand for every deal of marriage of Filipinos to foreigners. Matchmaking schemes include personal introduction, wedding and travel arrangements/packages. Selection of the bride is chosen from a queue of women at selected five-star hotels. If ever marriage were not concluded, other prospective brides/women are presented as ready substitute.


Marriage fraud happens on arrangement with the fictitious partner. As an example, marriage brokers are given a fee of P 75,000 to P125, 000 for every Filipino going to Japan as a “bride”. Likewise, personal contact/meeting happens only after marriage (except in the U.S.). Upon arrival abroad, the bride separates from her partner and pursues an employment.


3.                   Internet


Other schemes in matchmaking involved the use of the Internet. It replaced the mail-order bride racket of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Names of women seeking marriage are advertised in the Internet together with their picture and personal profile. Internet subscribers pay the corresponding amounts ranging from US35-US$135 just to secure a password access to the personal data of all ladies in the Internet list  (http//www.ab3.com/info/join.htm) If a bride is chosen, correspondence and personal meetings are conducted. Upon agreement, wedding and travel arrangements are made.


Coalition Against Trafficking of Filipino Women director Aurora Javate de Dios reported that websites featuring Filipino beauties are currently the most “visited” sites in cyberspace. The price could go on as high as $5,000 if the Filipina is a show business personality. In 1996 alone, the cyberspace sex industry posted estimated earnings of $198 million. It has also become so lucrative that websites featuring Filipino beauties have mushroomed from 200 to 1997 to 72,000 this year.[13]


4.       Religious Movements


The “program” starts by enticing young women to join the movement. Religious training is conducted, after which couples are matched. Personal meeting with the foreign husband takes place only after marriage and after services are tendered to the movement. The Filipino bride joins her husband and his family after all ceremonies is conducted.


An example is the Korean Moonies. In 1996, nine hundred eighty-four Filipino women were married in a Korean sect ceremony, after being matched by a computer. A $2,000 fee is collected from the groom. Documented cases include women eventually sold into prostitution upon arrival in Korea.


B.                  Illegal Entry/Fraudulent Documents


Under this scheme, illegal aliens entered the country by means of air and sea transportation through the various entry/exit points in the country. Another scheme is through the used of fraudulent documents such as fake passports and visas. Another report says that there are thirty-one (31) illegal Chinese in Manila and were found to be undocumented or overstaying as they were in possession of fake visa extension and forged official receipts. Recently, twenty (20) Chinese women believed to be prostitutes were arrested because they had no valid travel documents or working papers. What needs to be looked into is the reported corruption perpetrated by Philippine diplomatic personnel and other agencies concerned.


Immigration personnel in NAIA intercepted five Chinese nationals holding stolen Japanese passports. The five were the first batch of a group of 25 who planned to use Manila as a jump off point to the USA. The stolen passports were bought from a Hongkong-based syndicate.


C.                  Illegal Recruitment and Placement


Illegal recruitment is the recruitment activities undertaken by non-lincensees or non-holders of authority. Certain features of illegal recruitment that constitutes offenses under the Revised Penal Code are:

a.       Estafa by falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualification, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions or by means of other similar deceits.

b.       Falsification of public official documents

c.       Complex crime of estafa through falsification of public official documents

d.       Direct bribery


Furthermore, Presidential Decree No. 1693, made illegal recruitment a crime of economic sabotage, that is, committed by a syndicate or perpetrated on large scale.


The crime of illegal recruitment is committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons in conspiracy with another. On the other hand, it is deemed to be on a large scale when the same is committed against 3 or more persons, individually or as a group.


Illegal recruitment of women for non-existent jobs abroad as domestics, entertainers or restaurant workers succeed because of the presence of unscrupulous recruiters with local and international connections, who usually operate with the protection of the police and the military. [14]


Some even use impeccably legitimate documents to get Filipinos out of the country, only to exploit them upon arrival in the foreign country through low-paying jobs and sub-standard working conditions, or by forcing them into activities like prostitution or drug smuggling.[15]


D.                  Other modes


1.       Adoption Method


Here, Filipino mothers who have given birth abroad are deceived into signing adoption papers after being led to believe that such adoption can indefinitely prolong their stay in the host country, only to find out later that they have not only lost the right to stay in that country, but have also unwittingly signed away their babies.


Children in the Philippines are also being smuggled out by foreigners who pretend to adopt them and spirit them away into child labor markets abroad. [16]


2.       Family Tours 


Allegedly organized by unscrupulous travel agencies, a bogus family is booked on a tour of certain countries, with one of the members of the family masquerading as the father and another as the wife and mother. Children or minors with tampered passports complete the bogus family.


Upon entry into a foreign country, the bogus family is disbanded and everyone is employed in vulnerable or illegal jobs earlier arranged for them.[17]


3.       Religious pilgrimages


Traffickers ask victims, mostly women to join groups for religious tours/pilgrimages and promise employment upon arrival in the host country. Some end up in bonded labor while others in prostitution.[18]


4.       Foreign training or internship


Students or newly graduates who are hired on a traineeship basis are made to work like regular workers without the benefit of minimum wage, social benefits and standard working/living conditions.


5.       Cultural exchange/promotion


A group, posting as artists, enters a country on a cultural exchange arrangement. After the performances, the group disbands and each is fielded in other jobs. The au pair arrangement, under the pretext of cultural exchange is also a form of exploiting women for unstable/insecure jobs, some end in prostitution.[19]






International concern with slavery and its suppression is the theme of many treaties, declarations and conventions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first of three modern conventions related to the issue is the Slavery Convention of 1926, drawn up by the League of Nations.[20]


With the approval of the General Assembly, the United Nations formally became the successor to the League, in the application of the Slavery Convention in 1953. States which have ratified the Convention - by 1990 86 had done so  - undertake to prevent and suppress the slave trade to bring about the abolition of slavery in all its forms.


In 1949, the General Assembly adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. This legal instrument consolidated other international agreements dating back to 1904.


The procurer rather than the prostitute is the target of the Convention. It requires States Parties to introduce measures designed to prevent prostitution and to rehabilitate prostitutes.


States ratifying or acceding to the Convention - they numbered 60 by the end of 1990 - also undertake to check the traffic in persons of either sex for the purpose of prostitution and to do away with laws, regulations, special registration, and other requirements of persons who are engaged or suspected of engaging in prostitution.


The 1926 Convention's definition of slavery was broadened to include the practices and institutions of debt bondage, servile forms in marriage, and the exploitation of children and adolescents in the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, adopted at a United Nations conference in Geneva in 1956. The Supplementary Convention has been ratified or acceded to by 106 states.


Protection against abuses of human rights which fall within the broad definition of slavery is the feature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Committees established under each Covenant and Convention monitor their implementation by the States Parties.


The Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery has the general responsibility in the United Nations for the study of slavery in all its aspects.


In addition, there are United Nations channels for receiving specific complaints of violations of human rights, including those which merit the name of slavery.


 Recently, a Global Program against Trafficking in Human Beings was launched by the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in March 1999 in Vienna International Center, Vienna, Austria, of which its pilot project will be in the Philippines. This is being undertaken to enable governments and the international community to respond to this worldwide problem. This program will bring to the foreground the involvement of OCGs in smuggling and human trafficking and promote the development of effective criminal justice system and other related responses. The program consists of an integrated package of policy-oriented research and targets technical cooperation.


E.                  REGIONAL INITIATIVE


During the Regional Meeting on Trafficking in Women, Forced Labor and Slavery-like Practices in Asia-Pacific, held in Bangkok, Thailand on February 19-22, 1997, the participants called on the United Nations (UN) Government and Non-Government Organizations to take part in the initiative against this issue.


They sought the United Nations to review the adequacy of the 1949 UN Convention for the Elimination of Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Prostitution of Others in addressing the present conditions of trafficking. The participants further suggested amendments of the 1949 Convention with new international instruments that will better address the contemporary situation of trafficking in women. There was a move for the UN to appoint a special rapporteur on trafficking from the Commission on Human Rights and that better resources to be provided to the Committee on Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Said committee shall investigate and make general recommendations to the UN General Assembly on the situation of trafficking in women and specific measures to combat trafficking.


As for the governments concerned, the same participants sought the immediate action on addressing and minimizing the root causes of trafficking in women; developing and enforcing international and bilateral agreements to eliminate the issue, ratifying and enforcing the UN Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and the Members of their Families and review other existing laws relative to this issue.


Furthermore, there was a recommendation for the governments to adopt a definition of trafficking for use in legislation consistent with the view that trafficking of women is: “All acts involved in the recruitment and/or transport of a woman within and across national borders for sale, work or services by means of direct or indirect violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt-bondage, deception or other forms of coercion.”[21]


In addition, the participants asked the governments to work together with non-government organizations in developing a comprehensive national program to prevent trafficking and assist trafficked women with legal assistance, health care, counseling, job training, rehabilitation and financial assistance as required.


On the part of non-government organizations (NGOs), the participants believed that they must lobby and work together with their government to develop national policies and programs; to exchange information, to compile data and conduct participatory action research; raise public awareness and encourage community involvement and action; and cooperate with other non-government organizations working against trafficking and other related issues.


Governments have yet to enact a specific law on anti-trafficking in persons. Though there are laws on prostitution, child abuse, illegal recruitment, rape and other related crimes against persons, these are not comprehensive enough, or may even be farfetched, to embrace the magnitude of human trafficking.




The Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), with its creation on January 16, 1999 under Executive Order No. 62, is mandated to establish, through the use of modern information and telecommunication technology, a shared central database, among government agencies for information on criminals, methodologies, arrests and convictions of transnational crimes to include trafficking in persons, a center for strategic research on the structure and dynamics of transnational crime, design programs and projects aimed at enhancing national capacity building in combating transnational crime.


On the other hand, in order to solicit international and regional cooperation, the Philippine Government offered to be the host of the ASEAN Center on Combating Transnational Crime (ACTC), formerly dubbed as the ASEAN Center on Transnational Crime (ACOT). The Center shall act as the central body to coordinate all actions against transnational crime, for use in the formulation of regional policies and operational planning, for the development strategy in combating transnational crime in a holistic manner and as a medium of dialogue between ASEAN parties. The proposal was submitted during the 6th ASEAN Summit on December 15, 1998 at Hanoi, Vietnam.


The Philippine Government formally offered such proposal for the creation of the ACTC in the 2nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime in Yangoon, Myanmar on 21-23 June 1999. As a result, the Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed to set up a regional center in the Philippines. They also agreed to develop closer cooperation with other countries, regional organizations and international organizations including the United Nations.


Even before this, the government has enacted several laws to address child trafficking. A significant law is Republic Act 7610 that provides for stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination and corresponding penalties. It defines the responsibilities of parents, social workers and government workers toward the protection of the children's right. It also specifies sanctions against individuals, establishments and enterprises that promote or facilitate conditions that hinder the child's development.  However, a specific law on human trafficking to cover all gender and age, should be adopted. In its absence, law enforcement agencies have to contend with existing laws related to it.


Other government agencies and non-government offices have concerted their efforts to address the issue of trafficking in persons. Policy-oriented researches and information drives have been conducted by concerned agencies.


IV.                THREAT ANALYSIS


State labor exports policies and programs and the international demand for cheap labor abroad have facilitated the massive migration of men and women for work. Government and private sector recruiters have developed a legitimizing system to respond to and diffuse local pressures of unemployment. At the same time, crime syndicates, stoking and profiting from the growing demand for bought sex have successfully exploited the possibilities offered by the labor migration phenomenon and contributed to the worldwide explosion of the issue.


            Basically, there are a lot of reasons for migration. In the Philippines, the main driving force for Filipinos to migrate abroad is economic in nature, specifically poverty alleviation or the materialistic desire for higher economic status and power. Notwithstanding the risk of possible exploitation and danger as experienced by other overseas workers in the past, still there are some that decide to pursue their ambitions and venture in alien lands.


The aftermath of inter-marriages employing the different schemes mentioned previously, as a form of migration is considered as human rights abuses which the government and non-government agencies have to further look into. Domestic violence is a result of matchmaking schemes. Filipino women are unaware or have not been sufficiently alerted to this form of exploitation to which they may be subjected. Usually, they end up as slaves/sex slaves and/or abused by their husbands. Sometimes, their own partners force them to prostitution. Another effect is Parental Abuse of Authority. The parents play a vital role in matchmaking. Due to economic difficulty, the parents sometimes become witting conduits of matchmaking by pushing their daughters to pursue marriage with foreigners whom they believe would relieve them from financial burden. Said scheme starts through correspondence, phone calls, or by personal introduction. The foreigner pursues personal visits and soon arrangement of a wedding takes place. Sometimes, minors are even enticed, resulting to child abuse. The reports of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, according to CFO, state that children of Filipino brides are usually victims of abuse by their father/stepfather. This is due to the cultural and personal differences and lack of proper engagement period of both husband and wife. Isolation and cultural alienation are the result of having no knowledge or lack of awareness regarding the disadvantages of matchmaking schemes. The Filipino bride is not only locked up at home and bonded in labor to the partner, but also is also alienated to her environment.


            Outside the confines of home and country, women and girls become more vulnerable to prostitution and exploitation. Yet the continued and rising of mobility of women does bring advantages and benefits, putting them in an impasse, torn as they are between the limited but safer options at home, and the higher risks but also better economic rewards in cities and in foreign shores.


            Though the Philippine economy is gradually improving ahead of other ASEAN nations due to the bulk of foreign remittances by the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), which incidentally has reached US$13.8 Billion, the sense of values within some sectors in the government, the society and the family are slowly deteriorating. In view of increasing number of overseas workers, the Filipinos have been regarded as  “prime commodity, degrading not only the worker but also the nation as a whole commodity.”


As of this date, much remains to be done in the area of policy and program development to prevent and protect Filipinos from exploitation. A wide gap still exists between the laws and the rhetoric we adopt and the attitudes and practices we act out. Each citizen has a strategic role to play in closing these gaps.


            The influx of illegal aliens in the country has become a worsening problem. As a matter of fact, a lot of Chinese come in illegally as traders thus destabilizing business and commerce. As a result, the government is deprived of revenues from this illegal activity, thereby hampering the economic recovery.


Illegal aliens pose as a social burden and may be involved in various criminal activities or form part of the cells of international organized crime groups. Their entry further destabilizes our economy and national security and stability.


            The problem may lie on the enforcement and implementation of immigration laws, focusing not on the syndicates or OCGs but to the victims themselves.             Likewise, the extradition treaties and diplomatic ties with other countries have made the Philippines helpless in pursuing cases against foreign nationals.


            Human smuggling is so lucrative that syndicates resort to any method they can conceive to rake in huge profits without regard for the legal, moral or social implications of their nefarious activities.[22] In turn, the income generated from these illegal activities goes to the financing of legal business ventures thereby accumulating profit that is laundered or placed in foreign accounts. Money laundering then becomes another issue of mutual concern. There is a possibility that the Philippines is one of the repository of laundered money.


V.         CONCLUSION:


            Although there are many reports on increasing number of local case studies on problems of smuggling and trafficking in persons, little attention is given to the nature and development of organized crime involvement. The lack of such study hampers the formulation and adequate implementation of an effective national and international strategy.


            In many countries, smuggling of human beings is not effectively controlled and prevented. Government policies and the practice of border control, immigration, police and justice agency concentrate on the illegal aspect of migration, leaving aside the major role of the involvement of organized criminal groups in the smuggling of human beings. As a consequence, the primary targets of central intervention are the illegal migrants, not the criminal organization involved in the smuggling and exploitation of human beings. Existing laws do not provide up to date regulation to deal with such trafficking, particularly activities carried out by transnational criminal organization. Moreover, national policies have yet to provide effective tools to dismantle organized crime structure and their transnational alliance.


            Some countries do not have the capacity to respond adequately to problem on trafficking in person. The reasons for these are manifold: limited law enforcement capability; lack of expertise in the judicial sectors, insufficient coordination between law enforcement agencies, flaws on the criminal justice system and other concerned institutions.


            At the international level, framework of cooperation among law enforcement and justice official of different countries are inadequate resulting to inefficient investigation, prosecution and adjudication of cases involving trafficking in persons. Coordination on both the national and international levels is a must; it should be the rule and not the exemption.


            Victims of trafficking may often lose more than what they gain when cooperating with the justice system. In many countries, such persons are considered perpetrators of illegal acts rather than victims of crime and are, therefore, persecuted for violations of immigration laws, prostitution or criminal or statutory offenses that are legally subsumed under the terms indecent behavior, vagrancy and the like. Lack of adequate witnesses and witness protection programs may result in reduced efficiency of investigation, prosecution and court proceedings.

                                                                                                                                                            The lack of information on the general public on trafficking of persons, the extent of organized criminal groups involvement in trafficking in persons, the ineptness or corruption in concerned government agencies and the fate of the victims of this illicit activity make the situation even worse. In fact, the would be victims of trafficking  - women, children, their parents or guardians are unaware of and have not been sufficiently alerted to the various forms of exploitation to which they may be subjected to.


The solution to the worsening problem should be the extermination of its root causes - the transnational syndicates that exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the victims, not the victims themselves.


            The new paradigm on law enforcement, focusing on international cooperation coupled with proper coordination, sincere exchange of vital information, legislative adjustments that are tuned with the calls of times and stricter implementation of laws by the State parties, is viewed as an effective response to the challenges of this cancer-like problem.




1.          Legislation of a law against Trafficking in Persons, providing stiff penalties to traffickers considering that it is a crime vs. humanity.


2.          Sustained efforts of the Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO) with regard to community mobilization, legislation, intensified education programs and close linkages between service providers.


3.          Implementation and stricter enforcement of laws not against the trafficked persons but on the illegal recruiters and their abusive employers.


4.          More synergy among law enforcement agencies and concerned government agencies with the active involvement and coordination of non-government organizations.


5.          Stricter enforcement, control and implementation of immigration laws.


6.          Adoption of a universal law against trafficking/smuggling in persons.


7.          Conduct of  in-depth studies on effective monitoring and control of illicit transactions through the Internet.


8.          Formulation of house bills to consider the Internet as an illegal means of trafficking in persons.


9.          Develop a computerized system of monitoring citizens leaving and returning the country.


10.      Address the problem of corruption and ineptness of the Philippine Embassies and labor attaches abroad.











1.                   Speech by former Labor Secretary Lina B. Laigo at the National Conference on Women, 14 November 1997. Migration; Prostitution and Exploitation of Filipino Women and Girls.


2.                   Philippine Belgian project Against Trafficking in Women. Ateneo de Manila Research Team.


3.                   Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific. Coalition Against Trafficking in Women- Asia Pacific 1996. Manila Philippines.


4.                   Excerpts from the Proceedings of the Human Rights Conference on the Trafficking of Asian Women, April 2-4 1993, Quezon City, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women-Asia.


-          Introductory Speech of Aurora Javate de Dios, Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia

-          Ishrat Shamin, Nature and Impact of Slavery and International Trafficking in Children.

-          Leonora C. Angeles and the Philippine Organizing Team, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Transnational Issues in Trafficking of Filipino Women


5.                   Poquiz, Salvador A., Labor Standards Law of 1999


6.                   Pamphlet on Special Protection of Filipino Children disseminated by       the Child Rights Center of the Commission on Human Rights


7.         Laws and Issuances on Children, Council for the Welfare of Children.


8.         Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Centre for Human Rights United Nations Office, Geneva Fact Sheet No. 14.





[1]  Angeles, L.  and the Philippine Organizing Team, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Transnational Issues and Trends in Trafficking of Filipino Women

[2] Human Rights: Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Fact Sheet No. 14. Center for Human Rights, Geneva.

[3] Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific 1996, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific

[4] Poquiz, Salvador A., Labor Standards Law of 1999, p. 109.

[5] George R. Clark, Assistant OIC of Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

[6] A document prepared by the UN Office at Vienna and UN Office for Drug Control and Prevention entitled “GLOBAL PROGRAMME AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS”, April 13, 1999.

[7] Shamin, Ishrat,  "Nature and Impact of Slavery and International Trafficking of Children”, Human Rights Conference on Trafficking of Asian Women, April 1999.

[8] The Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Domingo L. Siazon Jr. during the presentation for the UN Start-Up Mission on the RP Pilot Project on Human Trafficking, 5 July 1999.

[9] DFA Preseentation on Trafficki ng in Persons

[10] Ibid.

[11] Angeles, L.C. and the Philippine Organizing Team, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Transnational Issues and Trends in Trafficking of Filipino Women.

[12] Shamin, Ishrat,  "Nature and Impact of Slavery and International Trafficking of Children”, Human Rights Conference on Trafficking of Asian Women, April 1999.

[13] 28 May 1999, Malaya,  International Flesh Trade enters Cyberspace

[14] Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific 1996, Trafficking in Women and Prostitution in the Asia Pacific.

[15] Calica, Aurea, "Gov't Vigilant vs. new human smuggling modes", Philippine Star, June 28, 1999 issue.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Centre for Human Rights United Nations Office, Geneva Fact Sheet No. 14. 

[21] Asian Migrant Vol. 10, No. 2, April-June 1997 Issue “Asia and Pacific Plan of Action to Combat Traffic in Women, Forced Labor and Slavery-like Practices.

[22] Calica, Aurea, "Gov't Vigilant vs. new human smuggling modes", Philippine Star, June 28, 1999 issue.