Efforts to put a stop to the trafficking and exploitation of children and women spreading in Negros Oriental have been stepped up by local government and non-government organizations.
The Provincial Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (PIACAT), a committee formed by the provincial government in response to the growing cases of trafficking in persons here, recently lobbied with the mayors of the ten identified trafficking hotspots in the province to crack down on trafficking and exploitation activities in their areas.
This was disclosed by Marlene Pepino, a PIACAT member and provincial coordinator of Visayan Forum Foundation, during the Kapihan forum held by the Philippine Information Agency on March 18. Pepino said PIACAT is currently assisting the said towns in creating their Municipal Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (MIACAT).
MIACAT will serve as PIACAT's arm in the localities to make sure that anti-trafficking and anti-exploitation measures are in place. Pepino said the Visayan Forum Foundation has earlier identified three cities and seven towns here as hotspots or areas with the most number of probable victims of trafficking.
The said areas are Bayawan City, Sta. Catalina, Siaton, Zamboanguita, Sibulan, San Jose, Amlan, Mabinay, Guihulngan City and Dumaguete City, said Pepino. The local law enforcement has already intercepted several trafficking victims in various transit points in the province.
SPO2 Josefa Lacandula of the Women's and Children's Concern Desk at the City Police Office in the same forum revealed that her office has rescued around 22 victims - aged 14 to 17 years old - from trafficking. Lacandula said most of the victims were rescued from the house of recruiters while others from the Ceres bus terminal.
She said that the perpetrators have learned new tricks of the trade by letting the victims travel on their own instead of being accompanied by the recruiter. "Ang mga bata ra ilang pabiyahe-on," said Lacandula, adding that the recruiter gives the instructions to the victims thru text.
Another new trick was exposed when the city police force together with the the local Department of Social Welfare and Development intercepted at the Ceres bus terminal a group of trafficked victims who were on their way to Bacolod City. The victims were recruited from Mabinay to be brought to Manila to work, but instead of traveling on the boat that leaves Dumaguete to Manila, the victims were instructed to travel to Bacolod first where they will then board a ship going to Manila.
The perpetrators are now resorting to making their victims take circuitous routes as transit points in the province are now under the tight watch of the police, said Lacandula. Traffickers lure victims into their net by promising them easy work and expensive cellphones. "Gihaylo ang mga bata nga sayon ra ang trabaho, ug maka-cellphone dayon sila," she disclosed.
Trafficking of young children and cybersex trafficking are now some of the problems here in the province, said Bridget Frederix, paralegal officer of Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE) during the same forum. GWAVE is a non-government organization that has been extending free legal services to trafficking victims rescued by the police.
Adapted from: Rachelle Nessia, "Efforts vs exploitation, trafficking in persons upped." Phillipine Information Agency. 27 March 2008.
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