Human Trafficking is a profitable business, involving a large network of organized crime associations. Women and children in indigenous communities and remote areas are the most vulnerable. The experience of the Visayan Forum Foundation and Sister Cecil Espenilla's commitment to fighting the phenomenon.
Manila (AsiaNews) - Sister Cecil Espenilla (photo), a Dominican religious of St. Catherine of Siena, for several years has devoted her mission to victims of trafficking in peop Human Trafficking le and modern slavery in the Philippines.
"For this to be possible public awareness programs are needed through education and campaigns with local governments, religious organizations, civil society groups, religious congregations and dioceses, public and private training institutes, women's movements."
The Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), headquartered in Manila, is a home for survivors of trafficking. This is one of the many centers that collaborate with Sister Cecil, where the religious regularly conducts training programs. Crizel, one of the girls housed in the facility, arrived in Manila accompanied by an acquaintance, promising a job as a domestic collaborator. The young girl was instead sold as a prostitute. With the help of some local people and police, VFF rescued Crizel, who is now attending the rehabilitation and a vocational training program.
Thank God, VFF rescued me before it becomes too late. I have found a new dawn in life," Crizel told Asianews. She is happy to be at VFF and looking forward to a safe future. "I have found new strength and beauty in myself, my worth and dignity. It is a home for moving forward with hope, courage, and conviction," Crizel added. "Faith leaders, social workers, government officials, police, and the public are needed to remain vigilant and protect human trafficking in the country and everywhere. Zero tolerance on human trafficking should be the goal," she suggested.
"We must raise our voice against modern slavery and trafficking in human beings," says Sister Cecil. "The dignity of the human person is the reason for our commitment to all this. We are all creatures of God. We must respect each other. Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human being is the foundation of a moral vision of society. "
Trafficking in persons is a profitable business, involving a large network of organized crime associations. Sr. Cecil's wish is that justice does not abandon the victims of trafficking; that survivors may have the courage to carry out long and traumatic trials; lawyers and judges do not give up the temptation to accept bribes to protect and absolve traffickers; that traffickers and criminal organizations convert and become opposed to slavery.
She is touring far and wide of the country in order to conduct awareness on human trafficking and giving training in parents, people and students and teachers of schools, universities, local government unit officials, clergy and religions of dioceses, police. In recent months, she has conducted training and awareness programmes against human trafficking in the dioceses of Bukidnon, Zamboanga, Samar, Masbate, Butuan, and Novaliches. "Combating human trafficking needs a comprehensive response of multiple sectors. One cannot do it alone. It has to be a collective effort," the nun noted. She and her associates of various shelter houses for survivors of human trafficking are committed to rescuing, rehabilitation and reintegration providing them psychosocial and spiritual care, vocational training and human formation.
Between April 1 and December 31, 2016, the Philippine authorities conducted 553 investigations into human trafficking cases, including 109 surveillance operations. However, non-governmental organizations say the number might be higher. Forced labor and the sex market are a serious problem in the Philippines. Women and children from indigenous communities and remote areas of the country are the most vulnerable categories. Human trafficking takes on different forms, such as submission to domestic servitude, forced farming, small-scale labor, and prostitution in locations such as Manila, Cebu, Luzon and Mindanao. The exploitation of prostitution, including child sex trafficking, is widespread in tourist areas such as Boracay, Angeles City, Olongapo, Puerto Galera and Surigao, where there is a strong demand.
Some 40 million people are victims each year, including about 150,000 Filipinos. Catholics work closely with government agencies. For Mgr Ruperto Cruz Santos, education, outreach, and policy programmes are among their priorities.
A 16-day campaign of activism launched. President of the Inter-religious Advisory Council: "Overcoming indifference and ignorance, to safeguard respect for human life". The Sisters of the Good Shepherd for awareness, reflection and action. Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur: "In order to fulfill its prophetic role, the Church needs to rise up in unity to comfort the afflicted".