President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday told his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to look into human trafficking and the rights of migrants and of persons with disabilities.
“As we facilitate people’s mobility, it is imperative that we promote and protect their rights, especially those who are vulnerable. Let us, therefore, implement more effectively ASEAN instruments that combat human trafficking and promote the rights of migrants and persons with disabilities,” Duterte said in his intervention at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
For Duterte, it is “equally important to promote greater people-to-people connectivity in the region.”
“We must improve on the mobility of our tourists, students, and skilled workers to realize our vision of one ASEAN community,” Duterte said, referring to ASEAN integration.
According to an annual report of the US State Department released this week, the Philippine government fully meets the minimum standards in ending human trafficking.
However, the US State Department said the government did not investigate officials accused of involvement in human trafficking.
Washington's report added that local authorities also did not “consistently criminally prosecute labor traffickers, or increase the availability of specialized protection and assistance services for child victims of sex trafficking or services for male victims.”
Despite this, the US State Department said Philippines “remained on Tier 1.”
“These efforts included implementing prosecution procedures that reduce the potential for further harm to child sex trafficking victims; convicting and punishing traffickers; and robust efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers and to assist those who become victims of trafficking overseas,” the report said.
De Lima bats for anti-human trafficking laws
Meanwhile, detained opposition Sen. Leila De Lima on Sunday called on the government to come up with and implement stiffer laws to prevent human trafficking.
De Lima, a former Justice secretary and a former chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, said the challenge for the government and the Filipinos is “how to palpably defeat the scourge of human trafficking and save more victims of human trafficking and forced labor.”
She then urged the authorities, civil society organizations and the citizenry to address the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery.
De Lima’s call came days after the US State Department’s annual report and the reports on 82-year-old helper “Nanay Fedelina”, a victim of modern slavery for 65 years, was released.
Last June 12, Nanay Fedelina was the guest of honor at the Philippine Consulate Kalayaan Festival in Los Angeles, California where she finally received her own Philippine passport.
Nanay Fedelina was physically and emotionally abused by her employers since 1953, when she started working as an unpaid household service worker in Manila.
She was reportedly brought to California and was isolated from her family for decades.
She was rescued by authorities in 2018 after a station nurse reported that she might be a victim of forced labor.
De Lima thanked the Filipino Workers Center, Philippine Consulate and US authorities for Nanay Fedelina’s release.
Despite being grateful for Nanay Fedelina’s freedom, De Lima continued to push for efforts to end and guard the plight of human trafficking victims.
“Subalit batid din natin na ang kwento ni Nanay Fedelina ay isang pilas lamang ng mapait at mas malawak na katotohanan: Marami pa tayong kababayan—mga bata, babae at nakatatanda—na biktima ng human trafficking na patuloy na sinasaktan, ikinukulong, inaabuso at sapilitang pinagtatrabaho,” De Lima said.
(Despite this, we know that the story of Nanay Fedelina is just a piece of a bitter and wider truth: We have several other fellow Filipinos – young, women, elders – who are victims of human trafficking, who continue to experience being hurt, held, abuse and forced labor)
“Patuloy po sana tayong maging mapanuri, makisangkot at magtulungan tungo sa ganap na paglaya ng libo-libo pang Nanay Fedelina,”