By Kristine Ann M. Fernandez
An anti-human trafficking advocate urged mass communication students in a lecture last March 3 to make use of the media in advancing the fight against the trade of humans for exploitation.
Romualdo Señeres, partnership and advocacy officer of the non-government organization Visayan Forum (VF), came to Silliman University to talk about human trafficking in the Philippines and Negros Oriental and to promote their campaign called “iFight.”
According to him, iFight aims to “raise awareness and enlist commitments from people to take concrete and effective actions” against human trafficking.
“The challenge is we want to make [human trafficking] visible because it is still invisible. As students, you can advocate by sharing information about the issue of human trafficking even just by liking the [iFight] Facebook page and sharing our posts,” he said.
The iFight campaign began after CNN premiered on May 2013 a two-hour documentary entitled, “The Fighters,” chronicling the journey of VF founder Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda against human trafficking and her campaign to convince world boxing champ Manny Pacquiao to join the organization’s cause.
The documentary raised worldwide awareness on human trafficking in the Philippines so much so that a US court was able to convict a man found to have abused three of the girls interviewed in the film.
Señeres also said since the Philippines is one of the sources,transits and destinations of human trafficking, he fears the implementation of the ASEAN 2015 might worsen the crime as it promotes free trade among the ASEAN’s ten-member states.
He added that Negros Oriental is among the top three sources of people being trafficked, along with the Camarines and Samar-Leyte areas. The common trades among the three sites are sugar migratory workers or sakada, fisher folks and domestic helpers.
Because of the campaign’s broad scope, Señeres asked for help from all concerned individuals who wish to see the end of human trafficking.
“In the Philippines, we are only 25 people in the front lines and we need more help. So we would like to build movements and thanks to the social media, thanks to the media because we are able to make ourselves broader and wider,” he said.
VF is the biggest anti-human trafficking NGO in the country. They regularly survey ship ports and airports for any human trafficking operations. They are also the only NGO to offer shelter for high-risk victims of human trafficking.
In 2007, famous author JK Rowling donated the money for the purchase of the land on which the shelter now stands. She met Flores-Oebanda when she handed her the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University
According to news reports, Rowling pledged to give Flores-Oebanda £50,000 (British pounds) right then and there because she was so impressed with the latter’s advocacy.
”Continue with the wonderful work,” Rowling said.