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Trafficking in Persons in Cebu City, Central Philippines

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Abstract

This study investigated the status of human trafficking in persons in Cebu city, central Philippines from the years 2010 to 2015. The paper analyzed the profile of victims, types of human trafficking, complaints filed by law enforcement agencies. The study anchored its theoretical framework on the Gender Paradigm of Reed [1] and the Rational Choice Theory of Lutya and Lanier [2] together with RA9208 [3] and Cebu City Ordinance 2163 [4] as the legal bases. The study employed a descriptive quantitative research design and document analysis using secondary data obtained from reports, databases of governmental agencies and online peer reviewed journals and dissertations. Findings revealed that majority of the victims were women and children who are considered as the most vulnerable groups to human trafficking. On the positive now, the number of victims was on a decline from the 2010 to 2015. Sexual exploitation and prostitution were the most prevalent followed by forced labor and pornography. With respect to prosecution processes, there was a relatively high frequency of convictions followed by those cases on trial, yet these remained low in relation to the volume of reported and monitored cases. Notably, the number of convictions does not necessarily indicate successful prosecution against human traffickers. For fear of risking their lives against 'bigtime' perpetrators and financial limitations brought about by income poverty, many victims are forced to execute affidavit of desistance thereby withdraw the filed cases especially when they are not placed under the witness protection program. In effect, first hand testimonies against identified offenders are not exposed during hearings and trials weakening speedy court decisions and case resolutions. Nonetheless, the local government and various stakeholders are exerting concerted efforts in curbing human trafficking in Cebu City. In conclusion, human trafficking in persons in the study area remain unabated as law enforcement, prosecution and aftercare agencies have not fully achieved substantial successes towards the eradication of human trafficking during the study period. This calls for a concrete, comprehensive and strongly well-coordinated efforts among concern government and private agencies and institutions to combat human trafficking in this part of Central Philippines. Keywords-Trafficking in persons, human trafficking victims, rational choice theory, gender paradigm, affidavit of desistance, metropolitan Cebu. Keywords: Trafficking in persons, human trafficking victims, rational choice theory, gender paradigm, affidavit of desistance, metropolitan Cebu.
Trafficking in Persons in Cebu City, Central Philippines
Mike E. Dela Serna1, Regine Mae E. Ferrer1 and Ferdinand T. Abocejo2
Abstract - This study investigated the status of human
trafficking in persons in Cebu city, central Philippines from the
years 2010 to 2015. The paper analyzed the profile of victims,
types of human trafficking, complaints filed by law enforcement
agencies. The study anchored its theoretical framework on the
Gender Paradigm of Reed [1] and the Rational Choice Theory of
Lutya and Lanier [2] together with RA9208 [3] and Cebu City
Ordinance 2163 [4] as the legal bases. The study employed a
descriptive quantitative research design and document analysis
using secondary data obtained from reports, databases of
governmental agencies and online peer reviewed journals and
dissertations. Findings revealed that majority of the victims were
women and children who are considered as the most vulnerable
groups to human trafficking. On the positive now, the number of
victims was on a decline from the 2010 to 2015. Sexual
exploitation and prostitution were the most prevalent followed
by forced labor and pornography. With respect to prosecution
processes, there was a relatively high frequency of convictions
followed by those cases on trial, yet these remained low in
relation to the volume of reported and monitored cases. Notably,
the number of convictions does not necessarily indicate
successful prosecution against human traffickers. For fear of
risking their lives against ‘bigtime’ perpetrators and financial
limitations brought about by income poverty, many victims are
forced to execute affidavit of desistance thereby withdraw the
filed cases especially when they are not placed under the witness
protection program. In effect, first hand testimonies against
identified offenders are not exposed during hearings and trials
weakening speedy court decisions and case resolutions.
Nonetheless, the local government and various stakeholders are
exerting concerted efforts in curbing human trafficking in Cebu
City. In conclusion, human trafficking in persons in the study
area remain unabated as law enforcement, prosecution and
aftercare agencies have not fully achieved substantial successes
towards the eradication of human trafficking during the study
period. This calls for a concrete, comprehensive and strongly
well-coordinated efforts among concern government and private
agencies and institutions to combat human trafficking in this
part of Central Philippines.
Keywords - Trafficking in persons, human trafficking victims,
rational choice theory, gender paradigm, affidavit of desistance,
metropolitan Cebu.
I. INTRODUCTION
Globalization has made the world smaller with the wide
array of cross-boarder trade and commerce, exchanges of
ideas and technology, online markets and accelerated
1Bachelor of Political Science Students, Department of Public Governance,
College of Arts and Sciences, Cebu Normal University
2Research Specialist, Center for Research and Development, Cebu Normal
University
movements of goods and services. At the same time, the
process of globalization has resulted brought several problems
of illegal activities, not only in prohibited trade but also the
exploitation of the human persons. In third-world countries,
human trafficking has become prevalent than ever before [5]
since trafficking in persons became a highly profitable
business at the expense of the victims [6]. Human trafficking
then become one of the pressing problems which require
utmost attention and needs tangible solutions. State actions
and responses in the form of policies and programs remain
inadequate, unresponsive and predictable to traffickers [7].
Every government has the duty to protect its citizenry from
the danger of social, economic and political decadence. The
role of every state is crucial in combating human trafficking.
The political will of a country determines the kinds of policies
and programs created, if any, to address trafficking, and the
resources to be allocated for their implementation of programs
and initiatives to fight against human traffickers [7]. The
implementation of anti-human trafficking law should be
strong, comprehensive and effective thereby achieve proper
assistance of victims. Human trafficking must be treated as a
serious criminal offense with commensurate punishments for
offenders [8].
The Philippines was a signatory to Palermo Convention in
2000 and commonly known as The Protocol to Prevent,
Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially
Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Accordingly, the Philippines enacted the Republic Act 9208
otherwise known as The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of
2003. While the enactment of RA9208 established the legal
parameters of what trafficking means, clarified the basis for
documenting and categorizing cases as involving trafficking,
and recognized acts of trafficking as criminal offenses with
corresponding penalties, trafficking continues to be
widespread in the country [7]. Although the law apparently
provides protection to the victims, they can not be taken as
“victims” seriously when still some people gain profits and
cloaked the warm euphemisms of “hospitality” conspiring to
weaken the victims’ access to the protection of the law [9].
Cebu city is located at the center of the Visayas nine major
islands [10]. Aside from its historic churches, modern
shopping complexes, pristine beaches, Cebu has local and
international air and sea routes, which enable easy access in
and out of Cebu city. These amenities and facilities have
made Cebu city a strategic location for human traffickers [10].
As a major, tourist destination in the Philippines, Cebu city
has become transient and exit points of many trafficked
victims, for sex tourism and child prostitutions, where the city
is considered to be among the five infamous places in the
country of human traffickers [11]. Cebu is being promoted as
prime tourist destination for international visitors attracting a
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multitude of foreigners from first world wealthy countries
seeking a relatively inexpensive vacations and holidays.
Cebu City is highly urbanized and is composed of 80
barangays while touted as having first-class commercial
districts and tourist attractions of the country [12a]. Cebu city
is linked to these three gateways to other islands in the
Philippines and the world such as Mactan International
Airport, Cebu International Port, Cebu Baseport Domestic
Zone and along with other sub-ports. This easy connectivity
makes Cebu city very conducive as point of entry and exit for
human illegal transshipment, which has exacerbated due to
loose monitoring systems of airports and seaports [13].
Poverty, natural disasters and insurgencies in many rural areas
are also “push” factors which amplify children’s and women’s
vulnerability to human traffickers especially in Cebu because
of its strategic location as transit point [12b].
Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
This study is anchored on three theories namely the Human
Rights Paradigm of Reed [14], [15], [16 ], [17], [18] and
Rational Choice Theory of Lutya and Lanier [19], [20]. The
rational choice theory [2] postulates that criminals, as rational
beings, decide to commit crimes basing from the costs and
benefits involved along the process of the perpetration of the
crime. Criminals keenly observe their potential victims, right
location, the opportune time in which their victims are most
vulnerable, the suitable methods for an easy entry and the
effective ways to protect their illicit activities from the
authorities [2].
Making a link to ‘root causes’ of trafficking, the human
rights paradigm [1] is arguing for prevention practices that
improve the socio-economic standards of those considered
vulnerable to trafficking. In the case of sex trafficking, human
rights advocates call for a particular focus on the
environmental circumstances of women and children [1].
They utilize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR), the United Nations’ Trafficking protocols, and
Convention on pertaining to the discrimination against
women as global instruments for combating human rights.
The detection and punishment of violators of legal rules is an
important subject and that can be attained through the
enforcement of public law with the make use of governmental
agents [21].
Often framed as ‘Violence against Women’, the gender
paradigm concerns the global, state and local marginalization
of women and, therefore, concerns itself with: women’s
subordinate status in the workforce often termed the
‘feminization of labor’; women and domestic violence; the
economic marginalization of women also called ‘the
feminization of poverty’; sexual victimization of girls and
women; and sexual violence, as demonstrably expressed in
the prostitution of women [1].
This study investigated the developments in combating
human trafficking in Cebu City, central Philippines.
Specifically, it (1) identified the common victims of human-
trafficking; (2) distinguished types of human trafficking
cases; (3) evaluated the anti-human trafficking laws in the
Philippines and local ordinances in Cebu City; and (4)
examined the prosecution of trafficking in persons cases in
Cebu City, central Philippines. This paper endeavored to
dissect trafficking in persons cases that existed in Cebu city,
its frequency distribution and trends; assess the
implementation of RA No. 9208 and Ordinance No. 2163; the
status of trafficking in person cases and the factors affecting
the successful prosecution of traffickers.
II. LITERATURE REVIEW
Many have been victims of human trafficking around the
globe, across international borders and the same holds true in
the Philippines. Cebu City is not spared from cases of human
trafficking problem brought about primarily poverty, natural
disasters and insurgencies putting at high vulnerability the
women and the youth [13]. The lack of employment
opportunities primarily put the minors accept any type of
work for survival. Corruption downplays the just solution to
human trafficking by making it hard to arraign and punish
traffickers [22], [23]. The loosening of border controls, high
unemployment rate, lack of education and training are among
the root causes of the vulnerable poor people falling victims
to human trafficking. The Academy for Educational
Development [12c] pinpointed the Philippines as the source
and travel nation for human trafficking activities with
approximately 20,000 to 100,000 child victims trafficked.
Women utilize the political procedure to push for universal
help program to counter trafficking at the national and
multinational levels and a successful response by the state to
the perpetrators and the victims of trafficking [15]. Recent
proof [22],[24] demonstrates that the degree of human
trafficking is connected to women’s representation in
organizations, since female government authorities usually
express concern over such wrongdoing often victimizing
women.
The nature of human trafficking assessed in this study is
not limited to women who experience sex mistreatment but
also looked into social divisions of class, race, sexuality and
different types of persecutions [25]. The determinants of
human trafficking in the source and destination nations
include migration, the vulnerability to crime incidence, policy
and institutional endeavors [23]. With stringent regulations to
national border to migration, women are resorting to
undocumented labor agreements, making them more
susceptible to trafficking syndicates [26].
Because of income poverty, minors are forced to work in
underground labor arrangements such that their parents often
condone untoward physical and sexual abuses whom their
children falls into. Children as young as 14 years are still in
their high school education level who are from poor families
[27]. Prostitution usually exists among women in exchange
for money. Human trafficking is transnational and happens
when a person who has been carried over the borders, is
pressured, particularly into forced labor and prostitution [28].
They are being deceived by recruiters and have to work with a
little or even without a due payment. There are victims who
are in debt bondage or bonded labor, a type of exploitation
wherein victims are kept as long as the traffickers want while
they are profiting money.
The act of using and abusing children in the sex trade is
illicit under Philippine Laws, the Palermo Protocol, and other
international conventions. Sex trafficking can cause
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permanent trauma to the victims both physically and
mentally. Moreover, trafficking is deterrent to public health,
because it is most likely to spread communicable diseases
with children who often contract diseases such as HIV or
AIDS and at times, their experiences result to death [29]. As
noted, exploitation is an indication of lack of respect to the
victimsespecially when victims are impeded from interacting
from one another, forced to change themselves and improve
their economic status [30]. Victims, in the worst case, lose
their self-esteem and self-dignity aside from their income and
integrity.
The Woman and Children Protection Desk (WCPD), a unit
in every police central station is mandated by RA 8851 (PNP
Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998), to handle cases
involving women and children. Furthermore, the PNP
women’s desk provides assistance, conducts investigative
cases and rescue operations to women and children survivors
of violence and abuse. The Anti-Child Labor Rescue
Operations, with the PNP among its partners, competently
raised the administration drive against child prostitution,
which is one of the most exceedingly terrible sorts of child
labor under Cebu City has been distinguished as a point of
origin, target destination of trafficked victims in light of
seaports and air terminals as an avenue for human traffickers
to transport their victims [31]. The Cebu city government
passed and approved City Ordinance No. 20163 to form
strategies and projects which run counter trafficking in
person, to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of trafficking
back into the society. Ordinance No. 2163 aims to reinforce
and implement the provisions of Republic Act No. 9208, its
executing rules and regulations, specifying punishments on
any act of violation of the ordinance.
III. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
This study utilized a descriptive quantitative survey
research design using primary and secondary data obtained
from government data and from interviews of actual
respondents. The research was conducted within Cebu City
which is strategically situated as origin and transit point of
entry and exit for human trafficking. The research respondents
consisted of key civil society organizations, private sector
groups and government agencies working against trafficking
in persons. They included the Camp Sergio Osmeña (Police
Regional Office VII), Department of Justice (DOJ), the
Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 7
(DSWD), and International Justice Mission Cebu (IJM). The
respondents are mostly composed the mandated agencies
under the Cebu City Inter-Agency Council Against
Trafficking.
The researchers gathered the data through primary and
secondary data collection obtained from online databases,
criminal records, archives, quarterly and annual reports and
financial statements. The following agencies were the data
sources: cases pertaining trafficking in persons (TIPs) filed by
Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking (IACAT),
Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force of Region VII
(RATTF), PNP Unit Office of RPO VII, and Criminal
Investigation and Detection Group of RPO VII (CIDG); data
of victims from DSWD Region 7; published reports from the
IJM Cebu; and Cebu city local ordinances. The regional
office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) 7 referred the
researchers to the Women and Children’s Desk (WCD) over
the matters of human trafficking. WCD is responsible for
keeping records of TIP-related complaints submitted by other
RPO 7 branches such as Regional Anti-Human Trafficking
Task Force of Region VII (RATTF), PNP Unit Office of RPO
VII, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of RPO
VII (CIDG). Additionally, the DSWD Region 7 provided
valuable data concerning victims of trafficking. On the other
hand, the IJM provided a link on the human trafficking
statistics from the Inter-Agency Council Against Human
Trafficking (IACAT) which is based from Department of
Justice.
Descriptive statistics was carried out from the gathered data
reports obtained from various sources. Comparative analyses
on the summary of TIP-related complaints filed to the court
(FY 2010-2015) and profile of victims (CY 2010-2014/2015)
and types of trafficking (CY 2010-2014). All calculations
were carried out using the minitab software.
IV. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Victims of Trafficking
TABLE I: FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION OF TRAFFICKED PERSONS BY AGE GROUP,
2010-2014
Table 1 reflects the frequency of persons, by age group,
who fall victims to human trafficking during the 2010-2014
period as reported by the DSWD Region VII. It should be
noted that some of these victims have been trafficked and
have also been re-trafficked. The table shows that nearly half
of the victims being trafficked are adults, or those who are 23
years of age and above. This was closely followed by the
youth 18-22 years of age as victims of human trafficking. All
establishments, particularly those offering adult entertainment
are required by law to hire workers of legal age which is
ranging from 18 years old and above. Most of the victims
belong to the legal age as manifested by adults who are found
in commercial sex establishments. Some research respondents
confirmed that these adult victims know their vulnerability to
being trafficked but still consented to do such elicit jobs.
The number of teenagers (15-17 years of age) accounted
about 12 percent among the trafficked persons. Although
trafficking of minors manifested a declining trend, this is still
alarming as it indicate continued trafficking among teenagers
in the study area. The Cebu city anti-trafficking groups really
find it hard to completely eliminate human trafficking with
the geographical locations of the city being an island and with
many entry of ports connecting its neighboring islands and
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international airports with direct links to many destinations in
the southeast Asia.
The increased law enforcement activity has propelled sex
trafficking activities to move outside Cebu City. A anecdotal
evidence suggested, home-based web-porn other cottage
industries had served as “underground”, and/or bled into
informal markets [33]. Apparently, the collection of data
about of victims on underground human trafficking has been
difficult since the crimes are committed inside the households
of the victims themselves. Hence, inspection of formal
establishments and the red light district is no longer enough
because human trafficking extended to private houses in Cebu
city. The number of victims grouped by age were manifested
an erratic trend of fluctuations during the study period. The
number of victims were possibly influenced by the changes in
practices and capacity of law enforcement agencies in
locating these victims, the availability of commercial sex
establishments and the seasonal fluctuations of reported cases.
Figure 2 reflects the proportion of female and male victims
of human trafficking in Cebu City. There were more
trafficked females than males during the period under study.
Data shows that trafficked victims were almost women while
only a few were men, translating to about 16 women and 1
man per 17 counts of human trafficked victims. Based on the
interviews, women were most likely engaged in sexual
activities and prostitution, while those trafficked males were
most aptly engaged in forced labor. The marginalization of
women in society has been one of the reasons why huge
number of sexual trafficking cases still persist. Society’s
objectification of women’s body for sexual satisfaction turned
out to be a lucrative business. On other hand, the common
notion that men are physically stronger compared to women
makes the former more susceptible to bonded or forced labor.
Evidently, gender is strongly associated with the kinds of
exploitation among trafficked persons.
The DSWD Region VII is the agency of government tasked
with “aftercare” services to these victims of human trafficking
alongside other nongovernmental organizations which
provide the parallel services. There are three shelters or
institutions that are currently being utilized and supported by
Cebu City government intended for human trafficking victims
namely: Haven-Regional Center for Women (for women ages
18-59 years old) located in Labangon, Cebu City; DSWD 7-
Home for Girls (for 18-below) in and HerSpace (both for
women and children). These are temporary shelters for the
purpose of rehabilitating victims before they are reintegrated
back into the society. The victims are expected to receive
necessary services such as skills and livelihood training
programs for adults, educational assistance to trafficked
children and psychological or medical services for both.
Types of Human Trafficking Cases
Data obtained from the DSWD Region VII (Table 2)
revealed that four main types of trafficking in persons (TIPs)
that existed in Cebu city; (1) sexual exploitation, (2)
pornography, (3) prostitution and (4) forced labor. Table 2 the
type and frequency of TIPs reposted during the period 2010-
2014. Pornography manifested fluctuation over the five
consecutive years accounting for the number of TIPs. PSA
data indicate that in Cebu city, a total of 195,461 households
have accessed to the internet. Pornography among all other
types of TIP cases is hard to detect since the crime happens
commonly in the households or in other private venues.
Cybersex dens often façade as normal households.
Furthermore, cybersex transactions happen with the use a
personal computer and a webcam over the internet. Victims
are either one persons or by group, perform sex acts or just
pose nude in front of the camera to please their clients for a
fee through international wire transfer. It is noted that the
incidence of the pornography will continue unless parents go
against such practice of exposing their children’s body in
exchange for money.
TABLE II: TYPE AND FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
(TIPS) IN CEBU CITY, 2010-2014
The trend for prostitution and sexual exploitation has
dramatically decreased from 2010-2014 but it accounted the
most dominant type of human trafficking activities. Sexual
exploitation is the broader term for both prostitution and
pornography which are often used interchangeably. The
fluctuations of these types of trafficking vary because of the
rescue operations conducted by law enforcement agencies in
raiding strip bars, beerhouses, and other adult entertainment
establishments where most victims are women making sexual
exploitation rampant.
On the other hand, forced labor cases have increased
gradually starting from the year 2012 to 2014. In Cebu city, it
ranked third among the four types of human trafficking. Force
labor most likely affects children workers and other groups in
the informal sector, it is second among the types of trafficking
that is hardly detected. Workers are exposed to heavy work
loads, receive low wages and treated unfairly by their
employers. Forced labor occurs when there is no clear and
transparent employment policies deprived workers of their
rights as stipulated in the Labor Code of the Philippines.
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The Cebu City Government through the Office of the City
Mayor, in furtherance with police power of local government
units, regulates the issuance of business licenses and has the
power to revoke licensed establishments offering adult
entertainment once violations against RA 9208 is committed.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in
coordination with Cebu City Government can issue a
permanent closure order to establishments which commit
violations of RA9231, the law protecting the children from
worst forms of child labor.
Statutes and Ordinances against Human Trafficking
The Philippine laws on combating human trafficking were
aligned from numerous international conventions,
declarations, and protocols that set the generally accepted
principles and guidelines to fight human trafficking. The
Palermo Protocol laid down the definition of trafficking in
persons, the commission of acts and the punishments
commensurate to the gravity of crime. The Philippine
Congress enacted the Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise
known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” in May
26, 2003. The law was considered a turning point in fighting
against human trafficking of the country since it was taken as
a clear indication that the Philippines is responding to the
problem of trafficking head on (UN.GIFT, 2012). Not only
that, the Congress too enacted other pertinent laws covering
other acts of trafficking as follows. Republic Act No. 7610
and Republic Act No. 9231 for protection of children’s rights;
Republic Act No. 8042 for safeguarding overseas workers;
Republic Act No. 9262 for both children and women; and
Republic Act No. 6955 and Republic Act No. 9710 for
protection of women’s rights.
However, there are still weaknesses of Republic Act No.
9208 that needs to be rectified. The ages 17 below are
considered minors in the legal term so they are automatically
protected regardless of the means is deemed as trafficking;
however, a source of confusion among law enforcers and
prosecutors arises when it comes to the question of whether
adult prostitution without coercion is considered as trafficking
or not [7]. There is a serious concern of witnesses seeking
legal protection from the government. In addition, the fact that
the penalty for sexual exploitation of trafficked persons is
considerably lower (the first offense is a community service
of six months and for the second and subsequent offenses will
be a one year imprisonment and a fine) relative to the penalty
for the violation of confidentiality, (six years imprisonment
and a fine) has discouraged some from filing cases (Sison-
Arroyo, 2008).The Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-
Trafficking in Persons Act corrected this weak side of the
former law and meted out a much heavier penalty as follows:
acts of trafficking (imprisonment of 20 years with a fine of
P1M to 2M); acts that promote trafficking (imprisonment of
15 years with a fine of P500,000 to P1M); and qualified
Trafficking(Life imprisonment with a fine of P2M to P5M).
With respect to Local Government Unit of Cebu City, they
passed through the Sangguniang Panglungsod the Ordinance
no. 2163 or otherwise known as the “Cebu City Anti-
trafficking in Persons Ordinance”. The latter is an ordinance
implementing and enforcing the provisions of Republic Act
No. 9208. The ordinance was created last November 26, 2008
which is five years after RA 9208 was enacted. The ordinance
in congruence with the statute defined therein the qualifying
terms such as “trafficking in persons” and “child”. It further
identifies the different forms of TIP such as prostitution, force
labor and slavery, sex tourism, debt bondage, pornography
and involuntary servitude. The succeeding articles speak of
the various acts to be penalized and they are classified to an
extent as an explicit act, a promoting act and qualified acts of
human trafficking (Section 4, Ordinance no. 2163).
Nevertheless, the weak spot of the ordinance are the
sanctions to be imposed to any establishments and persons
who have violated the ordinance. Given a fine ranging from
PhP2,500 to PhP5,000 (first offense or subsequent offense)
and imprisonment of not exceeding 3 months to 6 months is
actually diminutive though the business license is licensed. It
will not scare adult entertainment bar owners from doing the
same business again and public officials or private persons to
omit from reporting vital information on any trafficking cases
that is transpiring with their personal knowledge about it.
There are some provisions of the ordinance that needs a
slight tweaking. In Section 20, the infractions committed
against the ordinance should be meted out with higher
penalty. As for the implementation level, the Cebu City
Government should prioritize an adequate budget for Cebu
City IACAT. Last year’s Cebu City Annual Budget allocated
P 250, 000.00 to the Cebu City Inter-Agency Council Against
Trafficking (CCIACAT) should be increased this year as the
amount is noticeably small to cater the needs of law
enforcement agencies such as trainings, materials and
technical assistance.
Prosecutions of TIPs Cases in Cebu City
Table 3 shows the status of trafficking in persons cases
from the years 2010 until the August of 2015. These data
were compiled by different law-enforcement agencies like the
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of RPO VII
(CIDG), Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force of
Region VII (RATTF), PNP Unit Office of RPO VII, and
Department of Justice (DOJ). The Cebu City Government
demonstrated an increased effort in terms of law enforcement.
The number of convictions for the past five years was
considerably higher (2014 with 11 convictions) compared to
the number of charges filed. However, it should be noted that
the number of convictions does not necessarily tell if the
prosecution is successful in combating traffickers. The
number of affidavits of desistance being filed by victims and
data among law enforcement agencies greatly affected the
total number of cases filed. The weak side of the collected
data is the differences of the details and format in the case
monitoring of the different law enforcement agencies. The
researchers experienced difficulty to determine if the number
of conviction is higher compared to charges filed in court.
Hence, still the number of convictions remains low compared
to the magnitude of the problem [8].
There are factors which affect the progress and success in
the prosecution of traffickers. First, is the lengthy process of
trials and court appearances. Trafficking cases take three to
five years for a decision to be reached. To significantly
expedite trafficking prosecutions, the Supreme Court
instituted the continuous trial system pilot project in 2014
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[32]. It requires the cooperation of witnesses in appearing to
the courts otherwise the trial may be dismissed as witnesses
have disappeared beforehand. It is noted that the severity of
drug trafficking and human trafficking is not equally treated
by the courts. Human trafficking needs to be prioritized
because humans who are sold as commodity are more
immoral compared to illegal drugs that are mere substance.
Second, is the protection of the lives of victims. Many victims
file affidavit of desistance to discontinue the case filed in the
fear of risking their lives against a “big time” perpetrator
especially if a victim is not under the Witness Protection
Program. Because of fear, financial and practical
considerations, and the desire to move on with their lives,
many victims choose not to cooperate from the very
beginning [3]. Lastly, is the strength of law-enforcement
agencies. These law enforcement agencies are tasked in
arresting offenders and raiding business establishments where
possible victims are situated. A wide range of materials and
technical assistance is also important in combating trafficking
aside from in-depth surveillance trainings [10].
V. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
TABLE III: STATUS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS CASES IN CEBU CITY, 2010-
2015
Based from the foregoing discussions, it is concluded that
considerable developments in the combat against human
trafficking in Cebu City has been done. Yet, law enforcement
agencies, the prosecution, the aftercare agencies, and
administrative bodies have not fully achieved the much
desired eradication of human trafficking even if they are
exerting concerted efforts to bring down such illegal activities
in Cebu City. The local government, though has forge
stronger partnerships with private institutions and civic
societies, still is not effective enough in brining down, much
less in halting, the illegal human trafficking activities within
its jurisdiction, hence human trafficking activities still
abound. Issuance and renewals of entertainment establishment
business licenses has never been stringent. Routinized
inspections and monitoring of night clubs and other
entertainment business always fall short of the possibly dens
for trafficked victims.
It is recommended that Any person in authority, men in
uniform or government officials if proven guilty of
patronizing or fending these illegal activities must be
discharged from service and if possible they cannot hold
again any government position. The efforts should not only be
limited to the city administrative bodies but also extends to
numerous barangays in Cebu City. Seminars and awareness
campaigns against trafficking are to be conducted in schools,
barangays and sitios to increase social demands in the
grassroots level.
Many victims should be under the Witness Protection
Program in order that more witnesses are encouraged to push
through by giving relevant information and to testify against
offenders. The prosecutors should invoke speedy disposition
of trial to arrive at court decisions if possible in a three
months time up to one year. Those people who have a
position in authority like police officers, NBI agents and
social workers should be granted immunity from suit when
they perform raids, rescue operations or other kinds of
intervention.
They too are facing job hazards in the form of death threats
and harassment complaints resorted by the offenders. The
three temporary shelters should be adequate and spacious to
cater more victims of trafficking. Children’s condition is the
most critical given that they are less mentally matured and
that is why they should undergo psychological services,
constant counseling, and educational assistance by the
government. Trafficked women too should be given the same
support but particularly the medical services since they are
prone to sexually transmitted diseases or worse, cases of HIV
or AIDS; livelihood and skills training programs must be
offered so that they will refrain from being re-trafficked and
find decent jobs or create sources for their own living when
they reintegrate into the society.
Alongside with these state efforts in battling trafficking,
academic research must come in hand in order to have a
balance between theory and practice.
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