Notes from the Field

From the Philippines: Combating Human Trafficking through Media

August 22, 2007

On August 17, a front page feature article on trafficking in persons (TIP) was placed in a major national daily, the Philippine Star. The story, “Internet Pornography:  The Untouchable Crime,” written by Carmela Fonbuena of Newsbreak, was written to call on the general public to seriously look into this terrible transnational crime that acutely affects the Philippines.

In 2002, The Asia Foundation facilitated a survey of Filipinos’ perceptions on trafficking in persons. In it, they cited poverty and lack of gainful employment as the main motivators to migrate abroad.  That survey compelled lawmakers to advocate for the passage of the Anti-Trafficking Law in May 2003. 

This was a milestone in the Foundation’s decade-long effort against trafficking in the Philippines, which implements programs funded by the U.S. Department of State from 2002-2006, and currently by USAID from 2006-2008.

In ten years, the Foundation’s counter-trafficking programs have increased awareness amongst the public and contributed to concrete action taken by the Philippine government. This includes the establishment of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which coordinates government and nongovernment anti-trafficking activities, and the prosecution of trafficking cases under the 2003 Anti-Trafficking Law.

Currently, the Foundation is implementing a project called Increasing Information, Communication, and Collaboration to Prevent Domestic and International Trafficking of Filipinos and Protect Victims. The project, funded by USAID, aims to prevent the trafficking of Filipino women, children, and men and protect victims within and across borders.  This includes establishing a halfway house and anti-trafficking help desks in international airports, passing local ordinances on trafficking in persons, and training on fund raising and media relations tactics for nongovernmental organizations working to combat human trafficking.

Working with the media to mobilize public and government support to address trafficking is a cornerstone of this project. Informercials that portray average Filipinos facing possible trafficking scenarios are being developed and community journalists’ efforts to report on trafficking are being buoyed with Foundation support.

Newsbreak’s August 30th edition will feature in-depth and investigative stories on the pitfalls and successes of combating trafficking in persons in the Philippines. Stories on the forgery of documents, lapses ” or complicity — of government agencies, weaknesses in ports of entry, and involvement of local authorities and immigration officials in trafficking will be exposed. But successes of government policies and NGO efforts will also be illuminated, as will case studies of trafficking survivors. Newsbreak’s series will cover the “how, why, and implications” of human trafficking, while also focusing on the human component of the trafficking issue.

Newsbreak launched an anti-trafficking website (www.humantraffickinginasia.net) on June 23, which includes full-length investigative stories, photos, interviews, statistics, relevant studies, and an online forum to track policy development at the national and local government levels. Hosted and moderated by Newsbreak, the discussion board will be maintained and updated by The Asia Foundation’s partners in the trafficking project, such as the Visayan Forum and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

Maribel Buenaobra is a Managing Program Officer at The Asia Foundation in the Philippines.

View all posts by Maribel Buenaobra

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