by Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com), 2 Feb 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling for a Senate inquiry into the human trafficking of Filipino women amid the pandemic.
This follows a Washington Post report that dozens of Filipinas recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates were trafficked to Syria to work as domestic workers without their consent. The story, published on January 25, also reveals that the migrant workers were at times denied pay and suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.
“This is just one of the stories of so many Filipinas who have long been victims of trafficking abroad,” Hontiveros said in Filipino. “But in the midst of the pandemic, their situation will get worse.”
An inquiry, she said in Senate Resolution No. 631, would help senators “better understand the human trafficking ‘supply chain’ in order to craft more effective legislation to prosecute offenders and protect our women and children.”
“[T]he conduct of human trafficking in the Philippines demonstrates its largely gendered dimension,” the resolution adds, citing studies on the illegal practice.”[A]n overwhelming majority of victims being women and girls, owing to their vulnerability, their economic disadvantage, and the increased global demand for sexual services and domestic servitude.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on January 26 said he would repatriate all the distressed workers seeking shelter at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus. He also ordered the DFA to open a probe on the embassy personnel for “poor treatment” of the victims who were under their care.
Another bribery scheme at BI?
Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate committee on women, presided over the probe on the ‘pastillas scam’, an alleged bribery scheme at the Bureau of Immigration, which includes the outbound trafficking of Filipinos.
“Are there any institutions in the Philippines that initiated or protected this racket? Are the masterminds of the pastillas scam the same people behind this massive business of human trafficking? ” she said in Filipino.
“Ilang rolyo ng pastillas ang pinagpalit sa kaligtasan ng ating kababaihan? (How many rolls of pastillas were exchanged for the safety of our women?)”