Fr. Shay Cullen

It is a cruel and hideous crime to capture and enslave an innocent human for any reason whatsoever. But to make money and indulge greed and avarice in forcing the poor and vulnerable through force and intimidation, threats and debts, to work for little or no payment, then that is slavery. To buy or use products made with such labor is morally wrong. The people who recruit the poor, the hungry and jobless, many of them children, are the human traffickers. There are more than twenty million people throughout the world who are captive, victims of traffickers and slavers according to the 2014 US State Department – Trafficking in Persons Report out this June. This shows how widespread the crime is.

It is not an evil trade confined to the poorest of Asian, South American and African countries but it is common in developed nations too. In Europe and the United States, millions are trapped in bonded labor by debts, threats and intimidation. They work on farms, in factories and brothels. Many are trafficked into the European Union countries from Eastern Europe and are easily lured with the promises of good, high paying jobs but are thrown into brothels as sex slaves.

The huge mega-brothels conveniently situated near European international airports have hundreds of young girls trapped as prostitutes. Prostitution has been legalized in most European countries. While this protects EU women who have freely chosen to be sex workers from harassment and abuse and gives them rights, the EU gives little or no protection, medical help, or human rights guarantees to undocumented illegal migrants. That’s the status of the victims of human trafficking. Their passports and identity documents are taken from them by the traffickers who can then control and intimidate and threaten them.

This scenario goes on all over the world. In the Philippines, it is much the same. Trafficking in persons is so rampant; corruption is widespread so the suspects seldom get arrested or convicted due to incompetent or corrupt prosecutors and judges and police. While most of the judiciary can be said to be fairly just and honest, not all prosecute or convict because of bribery. Despite the brave face of government claiming to have an increase in conviction, it is dismal. That is why the Philippines is still on the 2nd level of notoriety of the US Trafficking in Persons report. The sex industry depends on traffickers to supply the young girls. We need to curb demand, and end the sex industry. Do the right thing, protect the victims and give them a life of dignity.

Human traffickers are wealthy people and they are a big source of income for the corrupt officials so it pays to let them go free. Then, they will keep on paying to stay free and be able to sexually abuse and exploit more children with impunity.

The Philippines in on the second level of notoriety of the Trafficking in Persons annual report this 2014, just above the more notorious modern slavery nations. It is an index prepared and maintained by the US Department of State. For all its faults over the past years, the US government under the Obama administration has declared a strong, no compromise policy against traffickers and slavers and those who enable and permit them to exploit and abuse the weak and the vulnerable.

With President Obama in the White House that was built by slaves, he, being the first black President of the United States, and his wife Michele, a descendant of slaves, it is no wonder that they would be strongly promoting the end to trafficking of persons and modern slavery.

Philippine local officials issue licenses and operating permits to sex bars and girly clubs. This is where thousands of young Filipinos, many underage minors who are victims of trafficking and sexual slavery, are bought and sold. It’s the meat market of minors. That’s why the country is on the second, worst level of the TIP report. It is accused of condoning such heinous crimes by its inaction, pitiful arrest record and almost non-conviction rate and allegedly corrupt judicial system. True or not as that may be, and I am not to judge, nevertheless, I have experienced the apathy riddled courts where the only swift decision is when the judge orders a coffee and donut.

What is significant in US policy is that anti-trafficking is now being integrated into the United States diplomatic and development work and more importantly, the US policy is to insist on the rule of law in protecting the victims and bringing the abusers and exploiters to justice. From this point, advocates are urging the US to develop an immigration rule whereby the US will be listing the corrupt police, prosecutors and judges and barring them and their relatives from entering the United States.

In his remarks launching the 2014 TIP report, John Kerry said the following; they are words worth reading. “Wherever rule of law is weak, where corruption is most ingrained, and where populations can’t count on the protection of governments and of law enforcement, there you find zones of vulnerability to trafficking. But wherever rule of law is strong, where individuals are willing to speak out and governments willing to listen, we find zones of protection against
trafficking. [end],

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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