Human trafficking in the Philippines

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Human trafficking and the prostitution of children is a significant issue in the Philippines, often controlled by organized crime syndicates.[1][2] Human trafficking is a crime against humanity.[3]

In an effort to deal with the problem, the Philippines passed R.A. 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, a penal law against human trafficking, sex tourism, sex slavery and child prostitution.[4] In 2006, enforcement was reported to be inconsistent.[5] But by 2017, the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons had placed the country in "Tier 1" (fully compliant with minimum standards of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act).[6]


A 1997 report put the number of child victims of prostitution at 75,000 in the Philippines.,[7] with other estimates saying as many as 100,000.[8]

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) estimated 60,000 to 100,000 children in the Philippines were involved in prostitution rings.[9] According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) about 100,000 children were involved in prostitution as of 2009.[10] is a high incidence of child prostitution in tourist areas. An undetermined number of children are forced into exploitative labor operations.[9]

It was estimated in 1995 that the Philippines was the fourth country with the most number of children forced into prostitution,[11] and authorities have identified an increase in child molesters travelling to the Philippines.[12]

In 2007, there were estimated to be 375,000 women and girls in the sex trade in the Philippines, mostly between the ages of 15 and 20, though some are as young as 11.[13]

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated in 2003 that there were more than 1.5 million street children in the Philippines and many end up in prostitution and drug trafficking in places such as Manila and Angeles City.[14]

Government and NGO estimates in 2007 on the number of women trafficked ranged from 300,000 to 400,000 and the number of children trafficked ranged from 60,000 to 100,000.[15] According to the US government reports, the number of child victims in the Philippines range from 20,000 to 100,000, with foreign tourists, particularly other Asians, as perpetrators.[15]

In 2010, an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 children in the Philippines were involved in prostitution rings, according to Minette Rimando, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'S International Labour Organization's Manila office.[16] A 2006 article reported that based on statistics provided by the Visayan Forum Foundation, most victims were between 12 and 22 years old.[17]

The Philippines is ranked under Tier 2 Watch List in the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States (US) State Department due to the Philippine government’s alleged failure to show evidence of progress in convicting trafficking offenders, particularly those responsible for labor trafficking.[18]

Problem areas and history[edit]

A report published in 2004 by the Vatican stated: The Philippines has a serious trafficking problem of women and children illegally recruited into the tourist industry for sexual exploitation. Destinations within the country are Metro Manila, Angeles City, Olongapo City, towns in Bulacan, Batangas, Cebu City, Davao and Cagayan de Oro City and other sex tourist resorts such as Puerto Galera, which is notorious, Pagsanjan, Laguna, San Fernando Pampanga, and many beach resorts throughout the country. The promise of recruiters offers women and children attractive jobs in the country or abroad, and instead they are coerced and forced and controlled into the sex industry for tourists.[19]

Puerto Galera[edit]

There are numerous cases of child molestation that have been reported in Puerto Galera, a beach resort on Mindoro Island three hours south of Manila. The area is a favorite for foreign child molesters seeking children.[19][20] Puerto Galera was described in 1997 as one of the Philippines top five spots for child prostitution[21]

Angeles City[edit]

In 1991 a volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo forced an evacuation and destroyed much of the Clark Air Base, a major United States military facility located 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Manila, which closed shortly thereafter. Most of the sex trade around the base closed at the same time due to the loss of the GI customers.[22][23] Mayor Alfredo Lim proceeded to crack down on Manila's remaining sex industry, causing many of these businesses to relocate to Angeles City, which borders on the closed base, and was becoming a popular tourist destination especially with former GI's.[24] By the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines, describing Angeles City brothels as "notorious" for offering sex with children. In 1997, the BBC reported that UNICEF estimated many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex.[25] In 2004, Police arrested foreigners and Filipino's and rescued 15 females of a child pornography and cybersex ring in Angeles City.[26]

The current[timeframe?] trade is dominated by Australian bar operators[27][not in citation given] and sustained by tourists seeking inexpensive sex, often with children.[28] In bars catering mostly to foreign men, girls are sold for a "bar fine".[21][29] Conditions are sometimes brutal[30] Children and teenagers are lured into the industry from poor areas by promises of money and care, and are kept there by threats, debt bondage and the fear of poverty.[30][31] Angeles City is one of the largest sex tourist destinations in the world with just over 15 thousand women working in its various sex establishments (brothels, bars and videokes).[32]

In 2005, UNICEF reported evidence of growing child pornography production in Angeles City.[33] Children as young as ten years old have been rescued from brothels in Angeles.[34]

In 2008, Angeles Mayor Francis Nepomuceno acknowledged the problem. “We admit having HIV cases and that prostitution may be flourishing". STD cases rose five times. The RHWC treated 1,421 cases in 2005, 2,516 cases in 2006 and 6,229 cases in 2007. Most of the afflicted were women.[35]

In 2010, CNN ran an article about a 15-year-old who began working in prostitution in a bar in the notorious fields ave, Angeles City because she needed money to support her baby. She was eventually trafficked to Malaysia where she was forced to take drugs and forced to service 20 customers a day[16]

Metro Manila[edit]

Visayan Forum Foundation has established in 2002 that most of the children and young women trafficked to Manila from rural areas in search of work were assured jobs as domestic workers, but in a significant number of cases end up in the sex trade.[36]


CNN stated in 2010 that "A decade ago, Pagsanjan, located about 60 miles south of Manila, became known as a popular location for men seeking homosexual prostitutes."[37] Pagsanjan began to attract an increasing number of child molesters. "In the '80s, Pagsanjan was declared by international gay publications as a paradise for them, a gay paradise, a haven for homosexuals", said Dr. Sonia Zaide, an activist who is particularly concerned by the expansion of the town's sex trade to include minors, mostly young boys.[37][38][39][40] Time magazine reported in 1993 that Pagsanjan was a favorite destination for sex tourists seeking children.[41] The Filipino government began a crackdown on the child sex industry in Pagsanjan and 23 people of varying nationalities were arrested. Foreign child molesters take advantage of the poverty, with children often being used as sexual currency by their own parents.[42] The World Bank World Development Report for 1995 reported that the town of Pagsanjan through civic action had dramatically reduced child prostitution.[43]


Childhope Asia Philippines, Inc. has a Community Mobilization against Child Prostitution project which started in 1994 to prevent child prostitution in Pasay and, more recently, in Caloocan City.[44] Children as young as 14- and 15-year-olds are child prostitutes in Pasay clubs.[45]


In 2003, Makati Mayor Jejomar C. Binay ordered a crackdown against prostitution following reports that some prostitutes are linked to criminal syndicates.[46] 33 women were rescued from a sex trafficking operation in Makati City by a team of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents.[47] The Chief of the Southern Police District deployed policemen in schools in Makati City after the abductions of children by those involved in the sex trade industry. P/Supt. Manuel Cabigon, SPD director, said the increased police presence in schools would deter members of a flesh trade syndicate from further pursuing their illegal activities.[48]

Davao City[edit]

October 5 has become the Day of No Prostitution Campaign in Davao City. In 2005, the Philippine Information Agency reported documented cases of children as young as 10 years old forced into prostitution in Davao. Davao provinces, along with the Caraga region, have become the favorites of child traffickers posing as tourists.[49] An undated article reported that, based on an October 1997 source, Davao is one of the top five areas for child prostitution and sex tourism.[50] In 1998, the Tambayan Center for Abused Street Girls reported more than 1,000 teenage girls had turned to prostitution in Davao City, charging as little as 50 cents.[51]


In 2001, it was estimated there were 10,000 young girls trafficked into sex slavery in Cebu.[52] "What has become very obvious is a growing market for child prostitutes," said Father Heinz, a Catholic priest who has been involved for more than a decade in initiatives to beat the pimps and child-traffickers.[52] It was reported in 2009 that Cebu remained a destination, source and transit area for human trafficking, where women and children victims are brought to be “processed”.[53] It was reported in 2005 that Cebu had been the destination of international and domestic trafficking of children, aged from 11 to 17 years old.[54]

Pampanga Province[edit]

More than a dozen of cybersex operations have been busted in the Pampanga province and Angeles City areas, this resulted in the rescue of hundreds of exploited women, most of them minors or below 18 years of age. Human trafficking or trafficking in person is some sort of slavery. Hundreds of computers sets have been seized, including sex toys and other gadgets used in the cybersex operations mostly maintained by foreigners. A forum hosted by the Prosecution Law Enforcement and Community Coordinating Service (proleccs) discussed several factors that contribute to the human trafficking problem and these include poverty, the proliferation of underground cybersex through internet and sex tourism.[55]

Lucena City[edit]

Lucena ports have been identified by anti-human trafficking advocates as transit points used by syndicates engaged in the recruitment of innocent women from remote areas destined for prostitution dens in other parts of the country.[56]

In 2008, after receiving on human trafficking activities, police armed with a search warrant raided a residential house at Pleasantville Subdivision in the village of Ilayang Iyam and rescued at least 14 women, three of them minors. The house had also been raided the previous month, resulting in the rescue of another group of alleged human trafficking victims. Following the raid a police spokesman, describing the suspect as "a known human trafficker and maintainer of suspected prostitutes in the locality", said that the suspected trafficker would face criminal charges for violation of Republic Act 9208."[56]

Subic Bay[edit]

In 1988 a Naval Investigative undercover operation based in Subic Bay were offered children for sex as young as 4.[57] Many of those involved in the prostitution of children have been brought to justice in the courts.[58][59] Most of the 16,000 women estimated to have worked the bars around the largest overseas naval base were forced into the sex industry.[60] One 16-year-old child tells of her experience in Subic Bay: She was locked in a room for a month, starved and force-fed drugs and alcohol to ensure she was addicted and could be more easily controlled. She was often beaten unconscious for refusing to have sex with customers.[60] Pregnancy, abortion, the spread of disease and drug abuse were just some of the indignities imposed on Filipinas.[61] Despite the US pull-out from Subic Bay in 1992, continues to fester, catering to a new generation of civilian sex tourists.[60] The former naval base, and current visits by American military have been the subject of protests by welfare groups and activists in Subic. Brandishing placards and chanting slogans, members of WAIL and GABRIELA called for justice for all victims of human rights abuses.[62]


Trafficking of Women and Children in Olongapo was rampant during the time of the Subic Naval Base located close by. In 1988, the US Naval Investigative Service confirmed the existence of child prostitution in Olongapo City.[63] After the base closure a new child molesters clientele from countries such as Australia and Europe moved in. In Olongapo City, there are believed to be 15,000 prostitutes, almost 8% of the total population.[42] Olongapo special prosecutor Dorentino Z. Floresta states, "Politicians do not want people to know that these things are happening in Olongapo," said Floresta.[64]


Eastern Visayas continues to be a source of women and children being sent to Metro Manila brothels and sweatshops. Department of Social Welfare and Development officials said the number of human trafficking cases was increasing.[65] Leticia Corillo, DSWD regional director stated that the victims were mostly children and women.[65] Seventy percent are aged from 13 to 17 years old.[66] A DSWD report, said the Waray towns of Paranas and Jiabong and Calbayog City in Samar province and Mapanas and Las Navas in Northern Samar are considered as human trafficking “hotspots."[66]

Parañaque City[edit]

MA Foundation, the Women’s Legal Bureau and the Office of the President’s Philippine Center on Transnational Crimes raided a house in BF Executive Homes, Parañaque City, on Nov. 7, 2003, rescuing 31 women. Another 40 women were rescued in the next raid.[67]

Trafficking Of Filipinas to overseas destinations[edit]

There are 150,000 Filipina women that are trafficked into prostitution in Japan as reported in the July 2, 1998 issue of the Daily Star. Some of them were sold allegedly to the Yakuza for $2,400.00 to $18,000.00. A news item that appeared in the May 31, 1995 of the Manila Chronicle reports that 150 Filipinas were sold into prostitution for $5,000.00 each by international syndicates to night club operators in some African countries, particularly Nigeria.[68][unreliable source?] A trafficker earns $3,000-$5,000 for each woman or girl sold in the international sex trade.[69] 150,000 Filipina women have been trafficked into prostitution in Japan.[13]

Sex tourism[edit]

An article in the newspaper Davao Today reports that, according to experts, the growth of tourism in the Philippines in places such as Cebu and Boracay, has given rise to the sexual exploitation of women and children.[70] In a 2004 article, the People's Recovery, Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA) reported in 2004 that ECPAT, which it describes as "a global network that campaigns against child prostitution", estimates that 300,000 sex tourists from Japan alone visit the Philippines every year. In the same article, PREDA reports, "many others are British."[71] Local NGO Preda states that the majority of the "customers" (the word used by the children to describe their abusers) are local tourists and about ten percent are foreign tourists. The foreign customers, according to arrest figures compiled by ECPAT Manila rank in frequency as follows: - American, Japanese, Australian, British, German, Swiss, other. nationalities.[57]

Unicef noted that child trafficking in the Philippines is the highest incidence of child prostitution in a tourist area.[72]

Foreign child molesters[edit]

The Philippines continued to assist U.S. law enforcement authorities in the transfer to U.S. custody of Americans who sexually exploited children.[73][not in citation given] Foreign child molesters are a major problem in a country like the Philippines. Some foreign child molesters are very well connected and have positions in industry and politics. Profile studies of these child molesters show they come mostly from Europe and are usually well off, married and with children of their own. Some foreign child molesters arrange with bribes and corrupt practices to get the children out of the country and abuse them in another country.[74] The problem of foreign child molesters continues to be reported in the press.[75] It was reported in 1999 that foreign child molesters have operated openly in the Philippines.[76] It was reported in 2006 that government officials had been accused of turning a blind eye to the sex tourism trade because it helps promote tourism in the country.[77]

In 2008, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) warned of a new modus operandi of foreign child molesters in the Philippines, saying “The child molesters usually meet the mothers, sometimes even the grandmothers, of possible victims online and make them their girlfriends. The women usually let the economically better-off foreigners into their lives and their homes, not knowing that the men would later pounce on their young children.”[78]

It was reported in 2007 that in Angeles, Pampanga (characterized as a hotspot for trafficking and sex trade), child molesters were increasingly using the Internet to lure other child molesters to come to the Philippines. Live video streaming on the Web was reported to show children being sexually abused. Other child molesters were reported to browse personal profiles or lurk in chat rooms to find their victims.[79]

One October 2004 paper asserted that most of the documented cases of child pornography had been instigated by foreign child molesters.[80] A 2005 paper by the same author tabulated reported cases of victims of child pornography as compared to victims survivors of child prostitution as follows:

Case/Year 2000 2001 2002 2003
Victims of Pornography 9 4 7 13
Victims of Prostitution 186 224 245 247
Source: Arnie C Trinidad, Child Pornography in the Philippines (2005), UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies and UNICEF Manila

News reports in 2008 indicated that the Philippines had deported five foreign child molesters that year (one German, two American and two Japanese), and was seeking five Britons.[81]

Mail-order bride trafficking[edit]

Republic Act 6955 declares as unlawful "the practice of matching Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals on a mail order basis."[82][83] It is also unlawful under the R.A. 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, a penal law against human trafficking, sex tourism, sex slavery and child prostitution.[4] The Philippines Government first outlawed bride agencies in 1990 after being alarmed at reports of widespread abuse of Philippine women in other countries.[84]

There have been 5,000 Filipina mail order brides entering the United States every year since 1986, a total of 55,000 as of 1997.[85] Matibag, an assistant professor of the Department of Sociology at the Iowa State University, said browsing for potential brides on websites is as easy as shopping for a shirt. Each woman is assigned a catalogue number.[86] Maria Regina Angela Galias, head of the Migrant Integration and Education Division of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), stated that South Korea and Japan have become the top destinations of Filipina mail-order brides.[87] Over 70% of Philippine women live in poverty, thus making them particularly vulnerable to the mail-order industry.[84]

Debt bondage[edit]

Debt bondage is a criminal offence under the R.A. 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003[4] According to Human Rights Watch, the practice of "debt bondage" among sexual traffickers is routine, and women often find that their so-called debts only increase and can never be fully repaid.[88] Recruiters sometimes buy children and sell them into prostitution. Most often the children have either been stolen from their villages or sold off by their poor families.[89][90]

Child-organ trafficking[edit]

In 2008, the National Bureau of Investigation alerted the public over the rampant smuggling of human organs in the Philippines. The NBI said smugglers are now targeting children who are kidnapped and taken abroad where their organs are sold to foreign nationals.[91][92] The World Health Organization has identified the Philippines as one of the five organ trafficking hotpots.[93] However, a recent 2008 proclamation by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has markedly decreased the frequency and ease of the commercial organ trade industry in the Philippines.[94]

Efforts to control[edit]

Philippine law defines the worst forms of child labor as all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery; any use of a child in prostitution, pornography, or pornographic performances; any use of a child for illegal or illicit activities; and work that is hazardous, including nine hazardous categories. The law criminalizes trafficking of children for exploitation, including trafficking for sex tourism, prostitution, pornography, forced labor, and the recruitment of children into armed conflict. The law establishes the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine for trafficking violations involving children and provides for the confiscation of any proceeds derived from trafficking crimes.[95]

Ani Saguisag, a lawyer with the child protection group, ECPAT, identifies lax enforcement of RA 76/10 (sic—actually RA7610) as a major reason why so few offenders end up behind bars.[52]

Department of Justice records show that from June 2003 until January 2005 there were 65 complaints received for alleged trafficking in persons violations in the entire nation.[96]

In November 2009 The Philippine government signed into law of Republic Act 9775, also known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This landmark legislation provides the full legal armor against producers, transmitters, sellers and users of child pornography in whatever form and means of production, dissemination and consumption, in public and private spaces.[97]

In 2009, the DSWD assisted 632 victims of trafficking in persons, illegal recruitment, prostitution, child molestation, pornography and child labor. From here 188 are male minors, 408 were female minors and 36 were women.[72]

Severino Gaña Jr., Assistant Chief State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice, stressed the need for a national database to track human trafficking cases in the Philippines.[17]

Gemma Gabuya, chief of the DSWD’s Social Technology Bureau, said the national government in a bid to address the problem had formed the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in 2003 in partnership with civil society organizations and other stakeholders of PACT.[72]

Microsoft has awarded over US$1 million through its Unlimited Potential grants to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across six Asian countries, including the Philippines. The latest round of grants will deliver IT training courses specifically for people in human-trafficking hot spots across the region.[98]

Unicef executive director Carol Bellamy stated, The Philippines is among the few countries that are making a dent in the fight against the trafficking of women and children. She also stated, "This is not going to be easy, Bellamy said. "We are dealing with criminals and they are not stupid. There are lots of money to be made and they will go to any length to continue harming and exploiting children in this awful way".[99]

Protection by politicians and police[edit]

Some local politicians, mayors and their business cronies continue to allow the operation of clubs and bars where children are used as sexual commodities along with young women. Many women will tell how they were recruited as young as 13 and 14. They issue permits and licences for all establishments and harass and threaten those trying to rescue the children, gather evidence and bring charges against them.[100] The United States Embassy in the Philippines states that some officials condone a climate of impunity for those that exploit trafficked women and children[101] Politicians in the Philippines work with local criminal gangs to do their dirty work and in return the gangs are given protection for their involvement in prostitution.[102]

CATW-AP Executive Director, Jean Enriquez, expressed the groups concerns saying that many of the women victimized by politician-buyers are minors who are vulnerable and powerless. Also, most of them suffer various forms of physical violence, rape and degradation in the hands of customers and pimps resulting in low self-esteem and damaging their body and spirit. “These women, often referred to as criminals, are actually victims of the system of prostitution. The violence and abuses they suffer in the hands of customers and pimps cause deep wounds in their being. Sadly, this is made worse by politicians/government officials who buy and use them for (the purpose of) sexual exploitation. They are supposed to provide protection and support to women yet are the ones who inflict pain and suffering — they are the real criminals!” Enriquez said. The First National Conference of Victims-Survivors of Prostitution, held in Manila in October, charged the Philippines' government with committing human rights abuses. The women said that local governments, the Philippine National Police and the armed forces protect pimps and owners of businesses such as bars that promote prostitution, and that government officials themselves often use women in prostitution.[103] In 2008, IMA Foundation executive director Susan Pineda stated that, probably the series of raids on alleged prostitution fronts is mainly aimed to force the establishments to pay P50 daily per entertainer as "protection money" by some persons closely connected with City Hall.[104]

Presidential Anti-crime Commission has evidence that the police in Manila are selling the children to foreign tourists and diplomats information independently confirmed by journalists.[105]

When a journalist based in Angeles City wrote stories exposing corruption and human trafficking in Angeles she was harassed, attacked and threatened with death.[106][107]

When Father Shay Cullen exposed a child prostitution ring in Subic Bay he was threatened with deportation.[108]

Socio-Economic Impacts of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children in the Philippines[edit]

Health Forgone[edit]

The sexual exploitation of women and girls has dire, lifelong, consequences on their health. Some of these health risks include subjection to physical abuse and violence, poor reproductive health and health issues related to substance abuse (drugs are often used as a coping mechanism). Deaths arising from unsafe, illegal abortions and physical abuse and violence, have also become commonplace in this industry. In terms of reproductive health, children fare worse because they often lack the skills and ability to negotiate condom use and, thus are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and Gonorrhea (a common STD among child prostitutes in the Philippines). It is reported that the prevalence of Gonorrhea was 18.6%.[109] This dismal health standard of the individuals in the sex industry could impede them from attaining the highest possible level of physical, mental and social well-being and maximizing their potential.[110]

The worrying trend is that these health risks are simply regarded as an occupational hazard of this industry. If left unchecked, the deteriorating health standards of these women and girls would have long-lasting negative effects on the Philippine society. Once the physical well-being of these women and girls has been compromised, the health of their potential offspring would also be adversely affected in one way or another. For instance, HIV is often transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy. Furthermore, the constant sexual exploitation and degradation these women and girls face may lead to various types of psychiatric morbidity and an impaired ability to form attachments and successful interpersonal personal relationships.[110] Consequently, their poor health would prevent them from being competitive in the labor market and they cannot be as productive as the average, healthy worker. Similarly, their subsequent generation are also disadvantaged in the labor market due to their poor health. This under-utilization of the nation's current human resources and the loss of future human capital would have long-term repercussions on the economic development of the Philippines. Moreover, the deteriorating health standards of this burgeoning group of individuals could strain the social and healthcare systems of the Philippines in the future.

Lack of Access to Education[edit]


The proliferation of child prostitution has a direct negative impact on the education levels of the children in the Philippines. The primary school completion rate in the Philippines was only 92% in 2007.[111] In order to achieve the Millennium Goals set by the UN, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, should be able to complete a full course of primary school. This goal may not be reached at the rate child prostitution is flourishing in the Philippines.

An estimated 400,000 prostitutes working in the Philippines are underage (of school-going age).[112] Without proper educational qualifications, even the minority of the children who escape their plight lack the skills to be competitive in the labor market and thus, face grim economic prospects. The lack of access to education for these women and girls has a profound impact on the quality of life their progeny would experience also, because these girls, if they ever start a family, may not have the skills or the knowledge to generate a steady source of income to support their family. Without the financial means to receive a proper education, generations after generations would be prevented from achieving social mobility and attaining equal opportunities. This in turn, prevents them from earning higher wages and entrenching them farther into poverty.


In 2007, the government's Interagency Council Against Trafficking established its first anti-trafficking task force at Manila's international airport to share information on traffickers and assist victims. In 2006 the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) issued new employment requirements for overseas Filipino household workers to protect them from widespread employer abuse and trafficking.[113] In 1983, Sister Soledad set up STOP (Stop Trafficking in Filipinas), to carry information into rural Philippine communities, stimulate income-producing projects for rural women and pressure authorities who connive at trafficking. In February 1986 they were supported by President Corazon Aquino, who said at her first press conference, "I will do my best so that we will be able to provide jobs for our they will not have to resort to this."[108]

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)[edit]

The Philippine government continues to rely heavily on NGOs and international organizations to provide services to victims. The Department of Social Welfare and Development operated 42 temporary shelters for victims throughout the country. Thirteen of these shelters were supported by a non-profit charity organization. Philippines law permits private prosecutors to prosecute cases under the direction and control of a public prosecutor. The government has used this provision effectively, allowing and supporting an NGO to file 23 cases in 2007.[113]

The Philippine campaign against Child Trafficking—or PACT, is an anti-child trafficking campaign that was launched by ECPAT Philippines to raise awareness on the Child Trafficking phenomena in the country. The campaign also aims to encourage local mechanisms for the prevention and protection of children against Child Trafficking as well as other programs which are unified with the intensification of the human rights of children such as the holistic recovery and reintegration of child victims of trafficking.[114]

Stairway Foundation, a child protection NGO, came up in 2009 with its 3rd animation film called "Red Leaves Falling" which is about child sex trafficking and pornography under the Break the Silence Campaign. The said film is being used by numerous government and non-government organizations to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking.[115]

In 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman signed a memorandum of agreement with select cause-oriented groups – the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), and the International Justice Mission (IJM) – so that they could help in the collective fight against human trafficking.[116]

The Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFF), has rescued and helped more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of trafficking since it was established in 1991.[117] 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.[118]

However, foreign sex traffickers and child molesters often harass Catholic and other groups by lodging multiple libel and other suits.[119]

In 1999 the PREDA Foundation, through the International League of Action, was able to bring to justice a group of Norwegians who were trafficking children from one town in the Philippines and bringing them to Oslo for sexual abuse. The youngest of these children were six and seven years old.[120]

Action by foreign governments[edit]

Numerous overseas countries have introduced legislation (e.g. the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Act 1994 (Cth)) which enables them to prosecute their nationals for crimes against children overseas, only a few child molesters who have committed offences in the Philippines are charged and convicted back in their own countries for the offences.[12] The Australian Government set up the "Australian Federal Police's Transnational Sexual Exploitation Trafficking Team" which investigates child molesters in places such as the Philippines. Some countries from which sex tourism originates, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, have passed legislation which criminalizes sex tourism. In the United States, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 makes travel with intent to engage in any sexual act with a juvenile punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment.[121]

On September 15, 2003, the US Department of Labor / Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) / International Child Labor Program signed a collaborative agreement with the Philippines government, and contributed US$5 million, on a Timebound Program. The Timebound Program covers sexual exploitation and trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation. The program was geared towards working in various parts of the Philippines.[122]

The United States government provided a grant of 179,000 dollars to help a Philippine non-governmental organization expand its halfway house operations to help victims of human trafficking, according to a statement by the US Embassy in Manila.[123]

The British Embassy in Manila organised a two-week course led by Scotland Yard detectives into techniques to investigate cases of child abuse. Subsequently, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation set up an anti-child abuse division - the first squad dedicated to fighting child abuse in the country.[25]

The United States has taken action under the 2003 PROTECT Act with a number of indictments.[124][125]

7th Asian Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect[edit]

A 2-day “7th Asian Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect,” of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), opens on September 24, 2007 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel in Pasay City, Philippines. It was organized by the Philippines’ Child Protection Unit-Network (CPU-Net), to be attended by 675 participants, including judges, lawyers, doctors, law enforcers and social workers, from 37 countries around Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. The themeAko Para sa Bata (I am for the Child),” includes issues such as child trafficking, children in armed conflict and natural disasters, child-friendly judicial reforms, and the involvement of media in promoting child protection.[126]


Police in the Philippines have been known to guard brothels and even procure children for prostitution.[127] NGOs have complained that the local political and legal establishments protect child molesters, sometimes even including law enforcement.[128][129] The United States Embassy in the Philippines states that some officials condone a climate of impunity for those that exploited trafficked women and children[130]

The victims[edit]

Those involved in the kidnapping of children occasionally make video tapes of children being sexually abused.

A 13-year-old child Sharon tells how she was forced to service more than 1,500 clients before she escaped. My back ached and I bled, she said, I tried to run away but the guard at the door blocked my way and pushed me back into the room. I cried and cried all night.[21]

The UN paper says there are also cases in which the children are "kidnapped, trafficked across borders or from rural to urban areas, and moved from place to place so that they effectively disappear".[131]

Children are at risk of hiv/aids from child molesters.[132]

The prevalence of gonorrhea and chlamydia was 18.6% and 29.1% respectively.[133] Philippine law provides for compulsory HIV testing in some circumstances, and of course people may voluntarily be tested for AIDS. The Philippine government has provided a mechanism for anonymous HIV testing and guarantees anonymity and medical confidentiality in the conduct of such tests.[134]

Men, Women and children involved in prostitution are vulnerable to rape, murder, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.[135] Some men said that it served them right to be infected by men.[136] Wendy Chapkis, author of the book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor in which she interviewed sex workers said at the 1998 National Women's Studies Association's annual conference at Oswego State University, "We as a culture believe that women who are sexual deserve what they get, are asking to be raped.".[137]

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. Unsafe abortions render women vulnerable not only to infections and other health complications, but even to death. Because these abortions are carried out in illegal abortion clinics there is no record of how many women and children, if any, die each year as a result.[136]

According to ECPAT chair Ron O'Grady, the chances of full rehabilitation are slim for children who have been sexually abused repeatedly. He adds: "We know that those children who are kept in brothels die quite young. (They) die in many cases before they have had a chance to live. We know they die from AIDS, from drugs and from committing suicide."[138] What sex tourism really means to the "real girls" is reflected in Poppy's words, captured by Ron O'Grady in his book, The Child and the Tourist: I found myself dancing at a club at the age of 11... I have had different kinds of customers, foreigners and Filipinos. I tried suicide but it didn't work so I turned to drugs. I want to die before my next birthday.[121]

In the exploitative system of prostitution, bar owners and pimps make the most profit while the women are exposed to abuse, physical, emotional and psychological trauma. The absence of punitive measures for the male customers enables them to abuse the women in prostitution. The problem is compounded by the fact that society, even the church, discriminates against women in prostitution.[139]

Pimps bend the girls to their will, drug them. Degrading and humiliating the girls is at the discretion of their international clients. After two, three years the girls have lost their health and beauty. From then on, they are on offer at bargain price to local clients. The humiliation these girls have to go through often drives them into self-destruction. With no self-esteem their lives are on a dead-end journey. With drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, venereal disease and AIDS the girls go to rack and ruin.[140]

At least 90 percent of HIV positive people in Angeles city were female sex workers, according to a study of the Training, Research and Information for Development Specialists Foundation Inc. (Tridev).[141]

CATW, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women lists numerous issues and adversities faced by women and girls in prostitution:

Problems Related to Health include: lack of comprehensive health services, not just on sexual health; women’s lack of knowledge of health issues; fear of doctors or medical professionals; and or risky health practices; drug use and risk from drugged client expensive and compulsory check-ups for issuance of health certificates; compulsory HIV tests and the lack of pre-test and post-test counseling, as well as the violation of confidentiality (publicly announced results) or no results given; lack of funds for hospitalization and health emergencies; forced intake of contraceptive pills and unsafe abortions.

Problems Related to the Law or the Legal System

  • Abusive, discriminatory conduct of raids, including arrests, maltreatment during raids or while in custody, extortion for release.
  • Women held in debt bondage.
  • Restriction of movement.
  • Anti-vagrancy laws are unconstitutional, i.e. they violate equal protection and are classist and sexist in their enforcement.

Problems Related to Services

  • Lack of education, especially in the areas of literacy, rights awareness, and peer education.
  • Women have the status of criminals.
  • Inadequate support systems in the areas of counseling and legal assistance, as well as child care.
  • The need for skills development, such as organizational and management skills, leadership, negotiation and documentation.

Problems Related to Violence Against Women

  • Trafficking in women by syndicates that practice active, deceptive recruitment.
  • Economic abuse, i.e. no work, no food and poverty.
  • A high rate of rape.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Violence caused by barangay (village) officials (fees, competition, harassment).
  • Harmful physical, emotional, and psychological effects on the women.
  • The “salvaging” or summary execution, especially of sick women.[136]

Organized crime of child trafficking[edit]

A special BBC investigation exposes the organized crime syndicates that control the child sex slavery trafficking in the Philippines. The investigation reported there could be as many as 100,000 Philippine children involved in the local sex trade. This crime gang has a system similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia, Yakuza and Triads. They often start as a trainee field recruiter, to running individual brothels, and then to overseeing an entire network - an underworld association.[142] Local NGO`S refer to the organized crime syndicates as the sex mafia.[2] From the Philippines, girls are delivered to prison-like brothels in the North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The organizers of the trade are varied, as well: it's a strange alliance of the Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triad, Russian and Italian Mafia, eastern European gangsters, Albanian kingpins, Latin American cartels, Nigerian warlords, Asian businessmen and American financiers and subcontractors.[143]

Cecilia Flores Oebande, the president of Visayan Forum Foundation, says child trafficking is a lucrative business. "It is, next to drugs and arms smuggling, the second most profitable business here in the Philippines".[118]


A court in Zamboanga City sentenced a member of a trafficking syndicate to life imprisonment in March 2007 for having recruited six victims and peddled them to a brothel in Sandakan, Malaysia. In 2006, law enforcement agencies filed 60 new trafficking cases with the Department of Justice. In 2005, police and the DOJ charged a police officer for allegedly trafficking minors for sexual exploitation at his Manila nightclub.[113] In 2006, law enforcement agencies filed 60 new trafficking cases with the Department of Justice.[113]

Ferdinand Lavin, chief of the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division, states there were 168 alleged cases of trafficking in 2008, a 60 percent increase over the previous year, with four convictions.[144]

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons states, “Trials often take years to conclude because of a lack of judges and courtrooms, high turnover [of judges], and non-continuous trials, which cause some victims to withdraw their testimony.”[144]

The US State Department says that judges in the Philippines often have a poor understanding of the anti-trafficking law.[144]


Revised Penal Code Article 202[edit]

Vagrants and prostitutes; penalty. — The following are vagrants:

1. Any person having no apparent means of subsistence, who has the physical ability to work and who neglects to apply himself or herself to some lawful calling;
2. Any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places or trampling or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support;
3. Any idle or dissolute person who ledges in houses of ill fame; ruffians or pimps and those who habitually associate with prostitutes;
4. Any person who, not being included in the provisions of other articles of this Code, shall be found loitering in any inhabited or uninhabited place belonging to another without any lawful or justifiable purpose;
5. Prostitutes.

For the purposes of this article, women who, for money or profit, habitually indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be prostitutes.

Any person found guilty of any of the offenses covered by this articles shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos, and in case of recidivism, by arresto mayor in its medium period to prison correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 2,000 pesos, or both, in the discretion of the court.[145]

Revised Penal Code Article 341[edit]

Penal Code article 341 imposes a penalty to any person who “shall engage in the business or shall profit by prostitution or shall enlist the services of any other person for the purpose of prostitution."[145]

Republic Act 9208[edit]

Section 4 of Republic Act 9208, otherwise known as the "Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003", deems it unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to commit any of the following acts:

(a) To recruit, transport, transfer, harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

(b) To introduce or match for money, profit, or material, economic or other consideration, any person or, as provided for under Republic Act No. 6955, any Filipino women to a foreign national, for marriage for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading him/her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

(c) To offer or contract marriage, real or simulated, for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling, or trading them to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor or slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

(d) To undertake or organize tours and travel plans consisting of tourism packages or activities for the purpose of utilizing and offering persons for prostitution, pornography or sexual exploitation;

(e) To maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography;

(f) To adopt or facilitate the adoption of persons for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

(g) To recruit, hire, adopt, transport or abduct a person, by means of threat or use of force, fraud deceit, violence, coercion, or intimidation for the purpose of removal or sale of organs of said person; and

(h) To recruit, transport or adopt a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad.[146]

Republic Act 7610 - Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act[edit]

Sec. 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. - Children, whether male or female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.
The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon the following:

(a) Those who engage in or promote, facilitate or induce child prostitution which include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) Acting as a procurer of a child prostitute;
(2) Inducing a person to be a client of a child prostitute by means of written or oral advertisements or other similar means;
(3) Taking advantage of influence or relationship to procure a child as prostitute;
(4) Threatening or using violence towards a child to engage him as a prostitute; or
(5) Giving monetary consideration goods or other pecuniary benefit to a child with intent to engage such child in prostitution.
(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse of lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse; Provided, That when the victims is under twelve (12) years of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case may be: Provided, That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period; and
(c) Those who derive profit or advantage therefrom, whether as manager or owner of the establishment where the prostitution takes place, or of the sauna, disco, bar, resort, place of entertainment or establishment serving as a cover or which engages in prostitution in addition to the activity for which the license has been issued to said establishment.

Sec. 6. Attempt To Commit Child Prostitution. - There is an attempt to commit child prostitution under Section 5, paragraph (a) hereof when any person who, not being a relative of a child, is found alone with the said child inside the room or cubicle of a house, an inn, hotel, motel, pension house, apartelle or other similar establishments, vessel, vehicle or any other hidden or secluded area under circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child is about to be exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.
There is also an attempt to commit child prostitution, under paragraph (b) of Section 5 hereof when any person is receiving services from a child in a sauna parlor or bath, massage clinic, health club and other similar establishments. A penalty lower by two (2) degrees than that prescribed for the consummated felony under Section 5 hereof shall be imposed upon the principals of the attempt to commit the crime of child prostitution under this Act, or, in the proper case, under the Revised Penal Code.[147]

Republic Act 6955 - Mail-order brides[edit]

RA 6955 basically declares as unlawful "the practice of matching Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals on a mail order basis."[82][83]

Republic Act 8042 - Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act[edit]

RA 8042 (Long title: An Act to Institute the Policies of Overseas Employment and Establish a Higher Standard of Protection and Promotion of The Welfare of Migrant Workers, Their Families and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, and for Other Purposes.) The act contains provisions which regulate the recruitment of overseas workers; mandate establishment of a mechanism for free legal assistance for victims of illegal recruitment; direct all embassies and consular offices to issue travel advisories or disseminate information on labor and employment conditions, migration realities and other facts; regulate repatriation of workers in ordinary cases and provide a mechanism for repatriation in extraordinary cases; mandate establishment of a Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos Resource Center to provide social services to returning worker and other migrants; mandate the establishment of a Migrant Workers Loan Guarantee Fund to provide pre-departure and family assistance loans; establishes a legal assistance fund for migrant workers; and other provisions related to Filipino migrant workers. The act, approved on June 7, 1995, mandates that pursuant to the objectives of deregulation the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall, within a period of five (5) years, phase-out the regulatory functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).[148]

House Resolution No. 779[edit]

House of Representatives of the Philippines Citizen's Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Reps. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales, on September 24, filed House Resolution No. 779 to intensify the fight against human trafficking on all levels, from legislation, policy formulation, enforcement and prosecution, to rehabilitation and support for victims. Villanueva said: "Human trafficking is fast becoming a major transnational crime next only to the illegal drugs trade and illegal arms trade. Most of the victims of trafficking are being exploited as commercial sex workers, forced laborers and even unwilling organ donors. We must consider the reports of the victims that lack of funds and resources are key problems in the full implementation of the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act, including the necessary support and protection." The National Bureau of Investigation (Philippines) reported "more than 400,000 persons from both government and non-government organizations who are victims of trafficking and almost 100,000 of these victims are children." Cruz-Gonzales said: "As of last year, only a little over a thousand cases were officially reported."[149]

Crimes against humanity[edit]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has designated human Trafficking as a crime against humanity.[150][151][152][53] In 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in The Hague (Netherlands) and the Rome Statute provides for the ICC to have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity. For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:[153]

(a) Murder;
(b) Extermination;
(c) Enslavement;
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
(f) Torture;
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The crime of apartheid;
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

Batingaw Network[edit]

On September 15, 2007, the Children and Youth Secretariat of the Anti-Child Pornography Alliance (ACPA-Pilipinas) launched Batingaw Network to protect and save children from all abuses and exploitations. It is the biggest formation against child pornography (cyber-sex dens; Internet shops with pornographic cubicles). It declared September 28 as the "National Day of Awareness and Unity against Child Pornography."[154]

Senate hearing[edit]

On September 15, 2004, the first hearing was held on escort services. [1] followed by a second hearing on September 22, 2004, attended by well-known movie personalities [2] and a third hearing, attended by representatives from KTVs. [3]

See also[edit]



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