Anna May is in her third year of college and her way to be a social worker. She is no ordinary girl. She was trafficked form the province into a sex bar in Manila by local people-traffickers when she was just 16. Her mother, a former bar woman herself exploited at a young age, approved the deal and came to collect some of the money. The traffickers and bar operators got the rest. Anna May got a pittance and endured sexual abuse by foreign sex tourists. The scandal is that local politicians and mayors issue licenses and permits to these sex dens and the national government does little to investigate, charge and convict the traffickers and paedophiles. Even a former Philippine UN ambassador is being charged in New York by his former Filipina maid for trafficking and abusing her. People close to the retired Catholic priest now Governor Ed Panlilio of Pampanga, reported that the majority of the mayors of he Province are against his efforts to clean up the rampant sex industry in Angeles city and elsewhere. Social workers trying to rescue the prostituted children and bring them to the children's home are frustrated when they learn police officers are also sidelining as bar operators. That's what we found in the Young Angel, sex bar in Hermosa, Bataan and in SkyLine, in Iba, Zambales. When we called for the rescue of the children in Skyline, the NBI anti-trafficking chief sent a heavily armed convoy almost three weeks too late. By then the owner, a police officer was tipped off and all the minors were trafficked elsewhere. The money spent by well meaning US Aid officials and the US State Department to stamp out trafficking of persons in the Philippines is mostly wasted. Government officials and law enforcement officers will make a big show of cooperation but let the trafficking and exploitation go on behind the scenes. The entire advocacy in the world is useless if there is no political will and law enforcement and care for the victims. Despite the instruction of the secretary of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for government social workers to rescue and bring the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation to the Non-Government homes for children, they prefer to send them back to the province, from where they are trafficked again. The minors are not sufficiently helped to overcome the trauma and be protected and empowered so they can testify against the traffickers and abusers. That's why there are so few convictions. The Preda home for trafficked and sexually exploited minors is waiting for referrals from the DSWD social workers who are tasked to rescue the children. The undercover surveillance that the Preda workers do, shows pimps offering children to foreigners for sex for as little as three to five thousands pesos or it's open season all year round for the sex tourists. US based religious group of the moral majority are calling for sanctions and a boycott of selected Philippine tourist destinations where sex trafficking is widespread. The US State department in its excellent report on the state of trafficking world wide says of the Philippines: "However, the government demonstrated weak efforts to prosecute trafficking cases and convict trafficking offenders. There were only three convictions under the 2003 anti-trafficking law during the reporting period, a minimal increase from one conviction obtained last year. Given the scope and magnitude of the internal trafficking problem this number of convictions is troubling. Achieving tangible results in prosecuting trafficking cases and convicting trafficking offenders is essential for the Government of the Philippines to continue progress towards compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. In the case of Anna May, Preda social workers heard about it and hurried to investigate and found her in a house near the airport ready to be shipped abroad to Japan. After a dramatic rescue, she was brought to the Preda home safe for trafficked and sexually exploited children. There she recovered and became an advocate for children's rights and a successful scholar. Today, she wants to help many more young girls like her who are victims of this horrific form of modern slavery. Father Shay is a Columban parish priest and founder of the Preda Centre in Olangopo, Philippines. Source: PREDA Information Office
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