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An article in Business Mirror tells the story of Carla and Trina (not their real names), the two women who were exploited and abused by global syndicates. Unfortunately, they were just part of the statistics. The 2010 US Government report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) revealed that around 600,000-800,000 people were trafficked around the globe in 2003 and at least 70% of them were women and children who were forced to work and/or enter prostitution.
The Philippines is tagged as one of the world’s biggest sources and transit places for human trafficking because we depend largely on our migrant workers abroad. We even can’t imagine what will happen to the country’s economy if all overseas Filipino workers stop sending remittances. Needless to say, we need to protect our modern heroes. We need to foster their rights and continually support their welfare. We must do something for human trafficking is not trivial and so horrible.
Beaten & Raped
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It has been two weeks since 15-year-old Carla was rescued after being forced to work in a brothel in Cavite. “Sabi nila maganda daw sa Maynila, impyerno pala [They said it’s great to be in Manila, but it’s hell].”
Carla was recruited, along with five other girls her age, in a remote village in grocery store in Manila but ended up working as a prostitute in Cavite. Poverty itself dehumanizes. But the pain inflicted on the victims of human trafficking like Carla is unimaginable, searing the very core of their souls, and leaving permanent scars.
Carla believed she could bear the physical pain and humiliation as her male employer turned her into a human “punching bag.” During the morning, she would wake up with kicks and punches from her employer while he shouted invectives at her. She would clean the bar, wash clothes of her employers and do errands while she’s made to eat leftovers of the family. On her third night, she was asked to put on a skimpy dress and wear makeup. She was then forced to go out with two officers wearing uniforms of the Philippine Navy.
“I thought I could tell them about my situation and ask for help,” said Carla, believing that those men are law enforcers.
“But these men in uniform dragged me near the sea and alternately raped me inside a small boat ….they’re pigs,” Carla said tearfully in Tagalog.
Carla languished for three months inside the brothel until one day, when her employer asked her to go with a woman who needed a baby sitter. But her new employer turned out to be another member of the syndicate and was supposed to bring her to Sabah to work as a prostitute.
Along with two other girls, Carla was about to board a domestic flight in Manila going to Zamboanga—where they were to take a boat to Sabah—when they were intercepted by the police and immigration officers. They were consequently turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and underwent psychological rehabilitation through the Visayan Forum.
Unpaid & Jailed
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At 24, Trina thought the job being offered to her in Singapore would ease the burden of her poor family in Alaminos, Pangasinan. A friend told her someone is recruiting people to work as household service workers in Singapore. A week after she grabbed an offer to be a domestic helper in Singapore, Trina received a call from the recruiter asking for P13, 500 to buy her tickets and process her employment.
She was given only two weeks to raise the money and was forced to borrow from her mother’s friend. Trina went to Manila to process her work documents, including her passport and medical certificate, and take the examination. Trina never saw the female recruiter who regularly calls her to ask for money and merely tells her where to go and what do.
Two weeks after she finished her work documents, she was asked to go to a fast-food store beside Baclaran Church to take the examination for employment. She was joined by five other female recruits. The recruiter called her up after a week and asked her to go back to the fast-food store near the Baclaran church. Someone handed her the plane tickets to Singapore and some travel documents. They were asked to pay anotherP2,600 each for the airport tax and other “expenses” going to the airport.
Unknown to Trina and the five girls bound for Singapore, an immigration officer at the airport is already alerted on their flight schedule to allow them pass through the routine checks smoothly.
“Basta sa Window 7 lang daw po kami pipila pagdating sa [we were just instructed to line up only at Window 7 when we reach] immigration,” said Trina.
The girls were also reminded not to talk with each other during their travel so the authorities will not suspect them of being trafficked.
Trina’s memory of the dates from the time the recruiter called her up until she arrived in Singapore was very precise. The way she remembers the dates appears very academic and she pours them out in rote, but not until she begins telling about her ordeal. As she began to relive her ordeal in Singapore, she pulled out a small orange checkered handkerchief and started to twist, fold and unfold it during the interview. Unaware of it, Trina was showing anger, frustration and pain from the way she mangled her handkerchief.
Upon arrival in Singapore, they were all led to a house of a Chinese national where they were tasked to clean the two story building for four consecutive days. They did not receive any pay from cleaning the house and doing all the chores for the Chinese national.
On her fifth day there, Trina was brought to her employer, a Singaporean couple and their six year old son. “It was only during my first day that they were kind to me,” said Trina.
Trina made a mistake in fixing the kitchen and her female employer started to shout at her while kicking her all over her body. At times, her male employer would hit her head with hardbound books that would really make her feel dizzy and left with bruises. Her employers allowed her to sleep only at 1 a.m. and would wake her up at 5 a.m. to help their child get ready for school.
“The child is also cruel. After I take him to the shower, he would spit on my face and push the toothpaste cap in my eyes while I help him dress up,” recalled Trina in Filipino.
Trina was never allowed to eat any decent meal. “I always eat their leftovers. Most of the time, they would put toothpick and used table napkins on those leftovers before they give them to me.”
She was not allowed to stay inside the comfort room for more than five minutes, forcing “open the door [to] drag me out.” Their cruelty seemed to have a numbing effect on Trina. While trying to accept her miserable condition, she would always think that her salary would somehow repay the abuses that she suffered. But she was wrong. In the last three months, she did not receive a single cent from her employer. Trina was supposed to earn S$340 a month. She agreed to get only S$10 as allowance to buy her personal stuff. The entire amount was to be paid to her recruiter, to whom she “owed” a total of S$2,500.
Her employers did not give her even the monthly S$10 as allowance. She talked to her recruiter and begged that she be transferred to another employer as she could no longer bear the cruelty of her masters. But the recruiter merely warned her she will be deported if she fails to complete payment of her debts. “I haven’t even sent any amount to my family back home. We’re so burdened by debts. I would rather bear the cruelty of my employers here than die of hunger with my family back home,” she recalled telling herself. But the physical abuses of her employers continued, prompting Trina to beg her female employer to help her find another employer. To her surprise, she was allowed to go. Her female employer even agreed to accompany her to another employer.
“I grabbed all my bags immediately without checking their contents. Instead of taking me to another employer, I was brought to the immigration office where my boss asked the officers to check on my bags.” The officers found a S$50 bill in her bag and she was very certain her female employer placed the money there to find an excuse to have her jailed.
Trina was made to sign a confession letter where she admitted to stealing money from her employer. The immigration officer brought her to the police and she was later detained at the Changi Prison for female offenders.
She was sentenced to four weeks’ imprisonment. Her notorious recruiter even made up another crooked means to further bleed Trina’s family of their scarce resources. Trina’s mother received a call from the recruiter telling her to send P30,000 to bail out her daughter who was in jail for stealing money. The family had difficulty raising the money then but the recruiter kept calling up Trina’s mother, this time lowering the supposed amount for bail to P15,000.
Trina’s brother, meanwhile, sensed that his family was being fooled all along and searched for the contact number of a nongovernment organization (NGO) in Singapore which was referred to him by a friend.
Trina’s stay at the Changi prison for women was shortened to one week because of the good behavior she showed. The NGO was able to locate Trina inside the jail and processed her immediate repatriation.
Please report any accident/incident of Human Trafficking to Blas F. Ople Policy Center through its hotline: 8335337 (landline) 09158435498 (mobile) or via email thru firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you may use OFW Watch, a mobile app created to fight this global menace.