by Edna Lhou | News Writer & Jameela Mendoza | Feature Writer
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, said Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VF) Regional Coordinator Romualdo “Dondee” Señeris II in a forum at the Audio Visual Theater, August 1.
The forum on the latest trends and challenges in human trafficking was part of the School of Public Affairs and Governance lecture series.
The lecture was a “protective” information drive for students to be aware of the top modus of the traffickers, especially when it comes to employment, said Señeris.
Fraud, he added, was a common way to bring people in human trafficking.
“In 2015, we have a good number of graduates in SU, FU, NORSU who were illegally recruited and became victim of trafficking in the guise of employment of teachers in Vietnam,” Señeris said.
“(Human trafficking) is not just a social issue. It is also a personal issue. It can happen to you,” said Señeris.
According to the Trafficking in Persons 2016 report of the U.S. Department of State, the Philippines is ranked under Tier 1, which means it is one of the countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
However, Señeris said this ranking does not mean that there is no more human trafficking going on.
Based on the US Department of State 2017 report, 909 human trafficking and illegal recruitment cases were investigated in the Philippines. 2,948 victims were rescued by local authorities, while 441 traffickers were prosecuted. 55 traffickers were convicted but more than 1,100 cases remained pending.
The Philippines is a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, said Señeris.
Señeris, who is the Regional Coordinator for Central Visayas and Tawi-Tawi, said Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, for example, are used as “backdoors” for human traffickers to smuggle people from the Philippines to Malaysia.
“In Tawi-Tawi there’s a minimum of 30 to 50 people being smuggled every day,” he added.
The largest interception done by VF at the ports of Dumaguete happened last summer, where they were able to intercept 17 men and boys bound for Zamboanga.
Moreover, Seneris said the youngest victim rescued by VF in 2015 was one year old, but two months ago the youngest rescued by the International Justice Mission team working in Cebu was only two months old.
“The countries of destinations for most Filipinos are Tier 2 or Tier 3. So no matter how [much] protection [we have] for human trafficking, when [Filipinos] travel [to a] country with lesser protection, still we cannot rescue them… Right away,” Señeris said.
“In today’s world, we thought that slavery was, gone but actually it’s all around us,” he said.
Domestic slavery, mail-order brides, selling of human parts, child labor, sex slavery and illegal pornography are considered forms of modern slavery, he added.
“We are now working with the Department of Labor and Employment because the target is to withdraw 3000 child laborers in Negros Island,” Señeris said.
Moreover, unfair labor practices also constitute modern slavery, which was why Seneris challenged the audience to be informed consumers.
“Please, know who are manufacturing your clothes or food because maybe you’re just supporting this company or corporation which supports slavery,” he added.
VF is a nonprofit, non-government organization that rescues and protects victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.