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Type of document: News
Topic: Actions/initiatives/projects
Law enforcement
Policy and Planning
Geographic descriptors: Philippines
Language: English
Publisher: Sun Star
Date of publication: 31 October 2004
Long Abstract: The family dire straits is imprinted in Maria's mind, thus, stirring a desire to find opportunity that would lift her from their poor living condition. When the opportunity to work in the city knocked on Maria's consciousness -- without even knowing yet the kind of work she will be into and what atrocities it might bring into her life -- she grabbed it in haste. Apparently, Maria's plight is just one of the many situations wherein children easily become victims of trafficking. Situations such as poverty, broken family, war and peer pressure are among the factors of trafficking. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person is, in fact, not new to the society. Trafficking was already practiced even during the Spanish period. Children were given to landlords to serve households as payments for debts. Youths, at the age of 16, were already assigned to perform hard and dangerous labor in the construction of ships, churches and government buildings usually in places away from their hometowns. Even girls as young as 13 years old were recruited as domestic helpers or laundry girls. As time went by, trafficking is said to have worsened as this already involved sexual exploitation of trafficked persons. Trafficking for sexual purposes is reportedly the most common form of this criminal activity today. Child trafficking for sexual purposes is increasing considering that it has become highly profitable. With this alarming situation, the government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is said to be making efforts to strengthen the protection of children by imposing stricter rules to prevent child trafficking. In an interview with DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman last August in this city, where she attended the performance evaluation of DSWD regional directors from Regions 9, 10, 11 and 12, there was an admittance that child trafficking still rampantly exist in tourist areas and highly urbanized areas. In this regard, Soliman said that the DSWD regional offices are closely coordinating with the local government units to curb the trafficking of persons. Soliman said the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children program is also intensified for the monitoring of illegal activities like child trafficking. But addressing the problem on trafficking in persons is not only the responsibility of government agencies and non-government organizations working for the children. In this case, the media is considered to be a fundamental tool in stopping the illegal act of trafficking in persons. Through balance and responsible coverage, the media is deemed to protect the interests of children. The children, most of all, must be protected from all forms of abuse and suffering, trauma or social stigma that may arise from inappropriate publicity or approaches to media coverage of cases involving them. During a three-day capacity building training for media practitioners of Davao on child and woman trafficking for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, the Ecpat Philippines Incorporation repeated to the media its responsibility to the society especially on children when it comes to reporting cases on abuses. (Ecpat is the acronym for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. It is a non-government organization aiming to educate the public and generate interest on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children and mobilize sectors to participate in the movement to combat the illegal act.) Ma. Gala M. Enerio, advocacy officer of Ecpat Philippines Inc., bared their organization's interest to work with media believing that the media can help build awareness about the issue of child and woman trafficking, has the power to change attitudes and teach skills and can generate public and political support for prevention of child and woman trafficking. Meanwhile, media consultant for the academe Butch D. Enerio delved further on the guidelines for media practitioners to observe in the coverage of various cases involving children. Being a media practitioner as well, Butch emphasized the importance of maintaining tact in writing about cases of abuse on women and children. While freedom of the press is said to be a fundamental right, which constitutes a basis of a democratic society, it should always be considered necessary to protect the interests of children. In fact, Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act requires the strict confidentiality on the identity of the child abuse victim and to all records pertaining to the case. Presidential Decree 603 or The Child and Youth Welfare Code, on the other hand, does not require a similar rule on confidentiality but provides for the destruction of the records of the case after the charges have been dropped. Lawyer Archill F. Capistrano, for her part, encouraged the media to disseminate information and educate the society about the provisions of the Republic Act 9208 or the Act to institute policies to eliminate trafficking in persons especially women and children, establishing the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked persons, providing penalties for its violations. Capistrano said that it is important to understand that, under the law, trafficked persons are recognized as victims and shall not be penalized for crimes directly related to the acts of trafficking or in obedience to the order made by the trafficker. Capistrano said that the consent of trafficked person to the intended exploitation shall be irrelevant. With or without the victim's consent or knowledge to be recruited, transported or transferred, the activity is still identified as trafficking in persons and is therefore violative of the law. The persons who engage the services of the trafficked persons shall be penalized also. Since trafficking in persons is not yet a heinous crime, the highest penalty for the offender is life imprisonment, which to some, is unbefitting as the trauma inflicted on the victims of trafficking is said to be perennial.
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