Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
For At-Risk Towns, Anti-Trafficking Trainings are a Must
El Nido Training Participants’ Class Picture
As the Philippine President remarked on inviting foreigners to the country with “42 virgins,” the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) was wrapping up its anti-trafficking project for local government officials in a tourist spot in Palawan. The project was done in cooperation with local government units and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).
It was the height of irony as CATW-AP documented a number of foreign tourists bringing girls, apparently minors, into hotel rooms in El Nido. Relatedly, Palawan figures in the news with a growing rate of HIV (from 147 in June 2017 to 221 in August of the same year). Eighty-nine (89) are from the age group 24 and below, with one even below 15. El Nido is among the affected municipalities. CATW-AP’s own HIV counselor notes that while the capital city may record the most number of cases, many would, in fact, be residents of outlying municipalities, hoping that their town of origin would not be known.
It is a fact that a huge number of HIV transmission is via “transactional sex” or prostitution. Sex tourism persists in El Nido, even as underreported. In itself, the act is punishable under Republic Act 7610 or “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.” And in cases they are proven to be procured in the context of prostitution, it is punishable under Republic Act 10364 or the Amended Anti-Trafficking Law. Sex tourism is contributory to the HIV growth rate, other than exploiting our women and children.
The anti-trafficking trainings CATW-AP conducted sought to address trafficking comprehensively in what are considered as trafficking hotspots in Palawan. It involved participants from the local social welfare and development offices, Philippine National Police (PNP), Tourism Office, Rural Health Unit and other relevant agencies. In Bataraza, the southern tip of Palawan, which is a jump-off point for trafficking to Malaysia and other countries, participants included the Prosecutor’s Office, PNP-Maritime and Philippine Coastguard.
Bataraza was included in the project as another target area in order to enhance local capacities to prevent and respond to trafficking in persons and other forms of violence against women and children (VAWC).
In 2012, CATW-AP assisted a group of Bulakeños who were trafficked via Palawan to Malaysia the previous year,” according to Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of CATW-AP. The circuitous process started at Clark airport as the ten (10) trafficking victims were flown to Puerto Princesa before they were transported to the southernmost tip of Palawan, loaded in a boat to Bankalan, and then again to Kudat, before traveling by land to Kota Kinabalu and then to Miri, Sarawak. The women were exploited in unlicensed massage parlors in Malaysia.
As late as September 30, 2017, six (6) women bound for Sendakan, Malaysia, were rescued in Bataraza. According to the report, “the number will be added to 62 previously-rescued victims of human trafficking in Palawan from January-September of this year based on the record of Provincial Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.”
CATW-AP trainings included sessions on international and national anti-trafficking standards and related policies, as well as skills provision on preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting cases in partnership with all stakeholders in the locality. During the training, CATW-AP noted that while many local government officials claimed to have finished numerous anti-trafficking and gender trainings, simulated response workshops showed deep gender bias and victim-blaming. Those were addressed by deeper discussions on gender concepts, human rights principles, victim testimony and role-played application of legal standards to actual cases.
In the end, government officials wrote to CATW-AP that the training went beyond expectations. “I did not expect that this training would be this impactful and affective to us.” A police officer wrote in his evaluation, thus, “I learned a lot from this training. To be more sensitive in handling cases concerning victims of rape, violence against women and trafficking. I will continue to enforce the law and put the perpetrators in jail.”
CATW-AP and CFLI also provided 7,000 Anti-Trafficking Primers and 13,150 information cards on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and Violence Against Women and Children to participants. This will assist the local government officials in their plans to train communities and establishments, to prevent sex tourism and other forms of trafficking. CATW-AP hopes that more local government officials around the country will be trained to help prevent trafficking and all forms of sexual exploitation of women and children, and contribute to the significant decrease in HIV incidence in the country.
The trainings were held in Bataraza on Oct. 25-27, 2017 and in El Nido on January 8-10, 2018.
CFLI is a competitive contribution facility under the Embassy of Canada in Manila that provides short term direct funding assistance to community groups, non-government organizations, people’s organizations for small projects addressing governance, democracy, capacity-building, economic, environmental and other social development issues.
Case Response Simulation, where PO2 Cris Hamora arrests a sex tourist as acted out by a participant from the Reproductive Health Unit (RHU), witnessed by a Barangay Security and by the Tourism Officer Arvin Acosta
Women Call to Stop the Bombings in Marawi,
Revoke Martial Law in Mindanao,
Women’s groups call on the new administration to respect women and human rights:
Click to download a copy of the Letter-Complaint
We, women, celebrate the resolution of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that incoming President Rodrigo Duterte violated the Magna Carta of Women when he made debasing remarks on rape and abuse of a domestic worker, kissed female supporters and held them on his lap in public, to the women’s surprise and without their consent, during his presidential campaign.
CATW-AP's Director on Prostitution:
"In many places around the world, women in prostitution are disappearing. To buyers, women are discardable objects. Every woman we have helped in prostitution suffered from physical, sexual and psychological abuse from customers. Investigation should be relentless. This suspected serial killer should be prosecuted and punished. And not let these cases in Manila remain unsolved like the others." - Jean Enriquez, CATW-AP Executive Director
UNESCO Chair Award was presented to Ms. Jean Enriquez
UNESCO Chair Award was presented to Ms. Jean Enriquez in recognition of her "Exemplary Contribution to the Promotion and Expansion of the Frontiers of Human Rights and to Fostering Global Solidarity." 15th Annual International Conference on Human Trafficking, Forced Labor and Exploitation Given by the UNESCO Chair an Institute of Comparative Human Rights, University of Connecticut, October 21, 2014.