Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada called on members of the Association of Southeast Nations to classify human trafficking as a heinous crime and impose on offenders the heaviest penalty – from a minimum of lifetime imprisonment, to a maximum of death penalty in countries imposing capital punishment.
“So many Filipinos who searched for jobs abroad because of dire poverty in our country have fallen victims to trafficking, primarily in countries within the region, which ironically, even made a joint declaration to combat this crime,” Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, said.
Estrada referred to the “Asean Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children” adopted and signed by the ten member-states of the regional grouping during its 10th summit in 2004 held in Laos PDR.
Quoting the Declaration, Estrada said: “The immorality and inhumanity of this common concern elicits the need to strengthen legislative, law enforcement and judicial responses to ensure deterrent action is taken against persons involved in individual or syndicated activities of trafficking in persons, particularly women and children.”
During the 2004 summit, the Asean members including Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia further resolved “to undertake concerted efforts to effectively address such regional problem” through several measures:
Estrada, however, said trafficking of Filipinos in the region persisted and even aggravated.
Estrada noted the June 2008 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, which stated that “the Philippines is primarily a country of origin for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor….primarily to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea...”
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier reported that trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore reached “all-time high”, with 212 cases in 2007, representing a very alarming increase from the 125 cases in 2006, and 59 in 2004.
Various reports showed that the number of Filipinas trafficked already ranged from 300,000 to 400,000, including some 60,000 to 100,000 children.
Few days ago, a Singaporean national named Lim Beng Wat also known as Alfred Lim was caught in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for trafficking Filipinas and other nationalities.
Philippine and Malaysian authorities are now preparing charges against Lim.
The victims mostly minor said Lim has accomplices in the Philippines who were paid for every individual they could send to Malaysia. According to them, they were even escorted through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark Airbase by two Immigration agents.
“I am calling on the governments of Asean countries hiring OFWs to give teeth to their declaration, such as, by imposing the heaviest penalty on human traffickers,” Estrada said.