Visayan Forum Foundation
VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION, INC is a non-profit, non-stock and tax-exempt non-government organization in the Philippines established in 1991. VF works for the welfare of marginalized migrants, especially those working in the invisible and informal sectors. It works in issues of domestic work, child labor and human trafficking especially of women and children.
It is licensed and accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide "residential care and community-based programs and services for women and children in especially difficult circumstances." It is most known for its pioneering and documented work on domestic workers in the Philippines, especially in pushing for the Domestic Workers Bill or the Batas Kasambahay. It is also in the forefront of providing services to trafficking victims by managing Halfway Houses constructed by the Philippine Ports Authority and the Manila International Airport Authority in major Philippine ports.
VF’s work for child domestic workers has been cited by ILO-IPEC and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) as one of the international best practices. Its anti-trafficking partnership with the Philippine government and private shipping companies was also hailed as one of the international best practices by the U.S. State Department in its 2005 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organization, also conferred the 2005 Anti-Slavery award on VF’s President.
In September 2012, questions were raised about possible fraud by the organization. The investigation is ongoing.
The Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFF), a nonprofit organization was founded in 1991. Based in Quezon City, the Visayan Forum Foundation has rescued and helped more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of trafficking.
These days the Visayan Forum now has its own national office in Manila — plus a network of over 70 staff workers, six regional offices, and seven project areas.
- Philippine and Southeast Asian Secretariat, Global March against Child Labor
- Convenor, Task Force on Child Domestic Workers in Asia
- Convenor, Multi-Sectoral Network against Trafficking in Persons (MSNAT)
- Convenor, Anti-Trafficking Task Forces at the Ports
- Vice-Chair, Philippine NGO Coalition on the UNCRC
- Member, ILO Convention 182 National Monitoring Team
- Member, National Steering Committee of UNICEF’s Sixth Country Program for Children
A society where marginalized migrants, especially Filipino women and children, are free and empowered.
To contribute to the protection, freedom and empowerment of marginalized migrants, especially Filipino women and children, by:
1. Mobilizing local, national and international efforts that promote safe migration and work for the development of marginalized migrants, especially the invisible domestic workers and trafficked women and children.
2. Providing integrative services and interventions
3. Campaigning, capacity-building and organizing advocates and volunteers as agents of change towards policies and programs that sustain long-term development involving women and children, communities, and other social partners.
4. Leading and sustaining preventive and proactive community-based programs
Institutionalized local, national and international policies that shall protect and provide programs and services for women and children especially the mainstreaming of domestic workers and trafficked persons. Sustained networks, partners, support or survivor groups and other stakeholders to provide protection, justice and developmental opportunities for long-term implementation of programs and services to victims of trafficking, abusive domestic work, as well as other vulnerable groups. Interventions for victims of trafficking and abusive domestic work are set up and strengthened in strategic areas, ports and hotspots. Communities are economically viable and secured.
- A halfway house, dubbed "Balay Silungan sa Daungan" (Home Shelter at the Port) provides 24-hour "safety and catchment" services for victims of trafficking intercepted by child rights advocates and government personnel.
The center, jointly established by the Visayan Forum Foundation (VF) and the PPA, also provides victims of child trafficking a temporary shelter, referrals in pursuing legal actions against their recruiters and telephone hotline counseling. VF-Mindanao regional coordinator, Luzviminda Panes, said the center also provides mechanisms to protect children who travel alone or are stranded at the seaport.
Visayan Forum Foundation has been actively involved in helping women and children trafficked into prostitution by providing support, education, housing, and legal advice. Visayan Forum Foundation has established that most of the children and young women trafficked to Manila from rural areas in search of work are assured jobs as domestic workers, but in a significant number of cases end up in the sex trade. Based on the statistics provided by the Visayan Forum Foundation, most victims are between 12 to 22 years old.
The Visayan Forum work with the Philippine coast guard, the government's Port Authority, and shipping company, Aboitez, to keep monitor arriving boats in the main ports, looking for possible traffickers traveling with groups of children. The organization has operations in four main ports serving Manila, and says it rescues between 20 and 60 children a week.
Other project areas
NCR, Batangas, Sorsogon, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Davao, Southern Leyte, Samar, Surigao, and Zamboanga.
Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda of the Visayan Forum Foundation is the first person to win the Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor, a new honor bestowed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda was presented with the award by Kristie Kenny, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.
In 2005, Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda of the Visayan Forum Foundation received the Anti-Slavery Award from Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organization.
In 2009, the Visayan Forum Foundation was awarded the Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution.
Ms. Ulleque says those arrested for trafficking children will sometimes threaten workers from her organization. "Sometimes they send their lawyers here and also they say, 'I am the relative of senator so-and-so and I am the friend of the station commander or the port police,' something like that, so we are being harassed".
An accusation of fraud by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of USAID. In the fall of 2012, the Visayan Forum Foundation's office in Manila was raided by the NBI, and evidence collected includes 35 boxes of allegedly fake documents, with around 10 folders per box and around 100 documents per folder. USAID complained against VF over P210-M (US$5.1-M) in donations that the non-government organization (NGO) allegedly misused out of a P300-M (US$7.3-M) port project. The project was meant to shelter human trafficking victims in airports and harbors.
After all internal investigations the Visayan foundation was found ‘not to be’ in breach and have successfully continued to help and support many victims of human trafficking and the illegal sex trade of young children. Support for the organisation has been overwhelming and continues to grow.
- Visayan Forum Foundation Inc
- "USAID sues PH's top trafficking fighter". Rappler. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Center for Victims of Child Trafficking Inaugurated". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- dotMailer. "Anti-Slavery". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "IT skills training enlisted in fight vs human trafficking - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Child Trafficking Prevalent Throughout Southeast Asia". VOA. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Visayan Forum -". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- "Visayan Forum: From U.S. 'hero' to foe". Rappler. Retrieved 15 March 2015.