Hontiveros wants Senate probe into alleged trafficking of Filipino women in Syria

Robie de Guzman   •   February 2, 2021   •   795

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on the Senate to launch an inquiry into the reported human trafficking of Filipino women allegedly recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates but were trafficked to Syria to work as domestic helpers without their consent.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 631, Hontiveros said it is imperative for the Senate to probe the reported trafficking of Filipino women to uncover those behind what she calls “supply chain of abuse.”

“Ang sakit sa puso na sa gitna ng isang matinding krisis sa buong mundo, ang mga kababayan natin ay patuloy na inaabuso. The issue of human trafficking of our women is not new, and putting an end to this practice is long overdue,” she said in a statement.

While the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has already committed to repatriate the remaining trafficked Filipino women in Syria, Hontiveros said that a probe is necessary “to better understand the human trafficking ‘supply chain’ in order to craft more effective legislation to prosecute offenders and protect our women and children.”

The Washington Post earlier carried a story exposing the plight of Filipino women who were allegedly trafficked to Syria.

In her resolution, Hontiveros noted that 12 women recruited in the Philippines were told that they would be working in Dubai but ended up being locked up inside a dormitory upon their arrival.

She said the abuse carried on until their 30-day tourist visas expired and they could no longer seek legal employment in United Arab Emirates.

“These women were physically abused and threatened the moment they expressed objection to being taken to Syria,” she said.

“Isa lang ito sa mga kwento ng napakaraming Pilipina na matagal nang nagiging biktima ng trafficking sa ibang bansa. Ngunit sa gitna ng pandemya, mas lalala ang sitwasyon nila,” she added.

The resolution also seeks to investigate the gendered dimensions of human trafficking in the Philippines, where an overwhelming majority of victims are women and girls because of their vulnerability, economic disadvantage, and the increased global demand for sexual services and domestic servitude.

“Dahil na rin sa kakulangan ng oportunidad sa Pilipinas, nagiging mas bulnerable ang ating kababaihan sa trafficking. The pandemic will only drive many families further into poverty, making many members, especially women, more at risk of exploitation and abuse,” she said.

NBI nabs one for human trafficking in Cotabato City

Marje Pelayo   •   August 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (NBI-BARMM) on Tuesday (August 24) announced the arrest of an individual in an entrapment operation in Cotabato City for human trafficking.

Authorities identified the suspect as Bai Sofia Tuas.

According to NBI Officer-in-Charge and Director Eric Distor, the operation stemmed from an information received by the NBI-BARMM regarding the alleged proliferation of human trafficking activities in Cotabato City.

The NBI-BARMM immediately conducted a validation of the information which revealed the alias “Bea” or alias “Pia” as one of the perpetrators.

After two weeks, the NBI was able to establish communication with Tuas and came to an agreement that the latter would provide nine female sex workers for P5,000 each.

Tuas agreed to undercover agents to meet at a hotel in Cotabato City where the female sex workers will be brought.

On August 18, agents from the NBI along with representatives from the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development of BARMM proceeded to the vicinity of the agreed meeting place.

Tuas then informed the undercover agent that they were already inside the hotel room.

After the undercover agents handed over the marked money as payment for the sex workers, they immediately signaled other operatives that the transaction has been done, prompting them to apprehend the suspect and rescue the nine trafficked victims.

Tuas was presented for inquest proceedings before the City Prosecutor’s Office of Cotabato City for violation of R.A. 9208 as amended by R.A. 10364.

Senate seeks probe on alleged DOH mismanagement of P67-B COVID-19 fund

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate wants to look into the alleged mismanagement of funds of the Department of Health (DOH) allotted for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

After the recent assessment of the Commission on Audit (COA), senators are seeking to investigate the deficiencies on the DOH’s P67.32 billion COVID-19 budget.

COA attributed the said deficiencies to the health department’s non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, including the use of funds not for the intended purpose.

Senator Grace Poe said this proves to be counter-beneficial to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time.

“These funds were provided to strengthen the agency’s health resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate should “particularly look into the P3.97 billion worth of contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in the procurement process and lacking documentation.”

“It is imperative that we examine closely the DOH’s use of billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds given the findings of the COA and the corruption allegations that hounded the agency’s procurement of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.

Drilon said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III’s ineptitude is sabotaging the government’s response to the pandemic.

“While we see a shortage of beds, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen tanks, the DOH incurred P24.64 billion in unobligated funds that could have augmented our medical resources and paid on time the risk allowance of our medical frontliners,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country needs commitment and competence from the DOH leadership to ensure every peso budgeted and allocated would save lives.

“Given the COA findings, the DOH seems to be depriving thousands of Filipinos of healthcare services in the face of national emergency and it is nothing short of criminal,” she said. AAC

NBI nabs four individuals for human trafficking

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 11, 2021

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday (August 11) announced the arrest of four (4) individuals by the operatives of NBI- Olongapo District Office (NBI-OLDO) for Human Trafficking in Olongapo City.

NBI Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Director Eric Distor said the operation stemmed from an intelligence report provided by Destiny Rescue Filipinas.

According to the group, a certain Jackylou Lastimado and Monica Corum were allegedly conducting human trafficking activities in Olangapo and in nearby municipalities.

The report said both  Lastimado and Corum acted as pimps to prospective clients by procuring, offering, promoting, facilitating or inducing minors specifically high school students and out of school youths by taking advantage of their vulnerability to engage in prostitution and other sexual activities in exchange for monetary consideration.

After validating the report, 2 operations in different venues/hotels were planned by the NBI- Olongapo District Office (NBI-OLDO). Arrested during the operation are Jackylou Lastimado, Ramil Enterno, Monica Labandelo and Jesthony Telan.

The operations also led to the rescue of 10 trafficked victims, six of whom are minors. The minors were turned- over to the City’s Social Welfare and Development Office.

The arrested subjects were presented for onquest proceedings before the City Prosecutor’s Office of Olongapo City on August 5, 2021 for 5 counts of human trafficking under R.A. 9208 otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and 5 counts for violation of R.A. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. AAC

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