HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES | July 13, 2015

Committed to the work of promoting Culture of Dialogue as the path to a sustainable and lasting peace in the society, Silsilah Dialogue Movement initiated programs that render services and formation for all. One of these programs is Silsilah Peace and Development Program (SPDS), the social action arm of the movement. Anchored on the principle, “Bridging Groups, Moving People,” SPDS takes care of programs such as the Filipino Overseas Development Program (FODP) and the regularly held Kapihan sa Silsilah among others.

On the part of FODP, the goal is to inspire and challenge Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to become real heroes by their willingness to be instruments of dialogue and peace in the country of their employment. This program had also started to offer counseling and legal as well as psychological assistance. Along this line, the movement acknowledged the real and present danger of the growing problem of Human Trafficking in all its forms that commonly victimize OFWs. Human Trafficking is a rampant humanitarian crisis nowadays. It is what social analysts call modern slavery. It goes in many forms unimaginable that degrade basic human dignity: women sexual exploitation, forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism, body organ trafficking, etc. It strips off the human person from the purpose God has intended for him or her.
To highlight FODP’s advocacy, the 33rd Kapihan sa Silsilah held last June 27, 2015 brought out into discussion the present status of Human Trafficking in the City of Zamboanga. Kapihan sa Silsilah is an informal gathering that discusses topics relevant and related to issues on dialogue and peace bringing them to the attention of the public. At the event, resource speakers from different institutions in Zamboanga City namely, Office of the City Social Welfare and Development, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zamboanga’s Social Action Office, and Visayan Forum Foundation were invited. Focusing their discussions on the theme “Human Trafficking and Social Responsibilities,” the resource speakers shared information as regards the current movement of human trafficking in the city.

Institutions in Zamboanga City like the Office of Social Welfare and Development among all others do their best in educating would-be OFWs in order to avoid being victimized by illegal recruiters. Educational efforts mobilized in barrios are necessary and have to be strengthened with the support from both the government and non-government organizations. On local issues the Kapihan resource speaker, Dr. Leonida T. Bayan, CSWD Assistant Officer said that “Zamboanga City serves as the passage point of illegal recruitment because of its proximity to Malaysia.” Given this fact, numerous cases of illegal recruitment directly tantamount to human trafficking happened. “As of the year 2005, one hundred cases were filed in the court” she added but “out of these number, there were only 7 convictions today.” However, it is note worthy according to Dr. Bayan because “Zamboanga City has the first conviction of human trafficking in the country.” Dr. Bayan added that for the period of January to June, 2015 CSWD was able to serve 240 survivor victims and would-be victims of human trafficking. They were provided with psycho-social interventions, temporary shelter and their basic daily needs by the institution and city government.
In the same Kapihan, the Roman Archdiocese of Zamboanga was also represented. Mr. Daren Torres, program manager of the Archdiocese’ Social Action Center and Humanitarian Arm, said he spoke on behalf of the women and children of the city. Many efforts for the protection of women and children from abuses were accorded by the archdiocese. Hand in hand with the city government and other government agency, the archdiocese works in providing programs to ensure the safety of child abuse victims. One of these advocacies also includes educational drives for communities.

Ms. Corazon Penaranda spoke on behalf of the Visayan Forum Foundation. She said that the foundation is a “Non-Government Organization and a sitting member of the inter-agency council against trafficking of the Department of Justice (DOJ) present in Zamboanga that advocates protection and assistance to human trafficking victims.” She confirmed the fact that “human trafficking in Zamboanga City is currently a rampant problem.” Rampant in the sense that there are still ongoing rescue operations and numerous interceptions of female victims of illegal recruitments in the city port; all of whom were to be transported to Malaysia. As stated, it is a sad reality that Zamboanga City serves as an entry point for the traffickers to transport victims. Visayan Foundation in Zamboanga is present at city port serving as a temporary shelter for women victims who were intercepted in rescue operations. Like the CSWD, the foundation provides social services to the victims and working with its partners in the government, the foundation accords them legal assistance.
Sad reality as it is, all three resource persons believe that human trafficking can be eradicated if each citizen is informed of his or her basic rights and dignity. Consequently, poverty appears to be the inevitable root cause of this problem. How then can we battle against these real and present dangers that threaten the most vulnerable in our midst?
Social responsibility – each one has to take part on this.

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