PPA RENEWS SUPPORT TO ANTI-TRAFFICKING
(L) SoMin PDM Christian Santillan Introduces US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr; (R) PPA Officers and Staff Join Multi-Sectors in Zamboanga To Combat Trafficking
In a show of force against a growing global menace, Philippine Ports Authority Port District Office-Southern Mindanao Port District Manager (PDM) Atty. Christian V. Santillan attended the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement of the Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF) Manual here on March 21, 2011.
The event, also graced by United States Ambassador to the Philippines His Excellency Harry K. Thomas, Jr. as guest of honor, finally pushed through after it had been shelved last August 6, 2010 when the city was bombed the day before.
Co-organizers of the SBATTF in attendance include Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Assistant Regional Prosecutor Atty. Ivy Damayo of the Department of Justice, Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI) President Cecil Oebenda and Port Management Office-Zamboanga Port Manager Leonilo Miole.
PDM Santillan, who delivered the welcome remarks and introduction to the Ambassador Thomas, stressed on PPA’s long-standing commitment to combat Trafficking In Persons (TIP) with the establishment and operation of Bahay Silungan sa Daungan (BSD) which serve as halfway houses for actual and suspected victims of trafficking.
“Multi-sectoral alliances are the very core in the fight against this social, and most importantly, an international hazard plaguing the most vulnerable of our society: the uneducated poor, the marginalized women and the unsuspecting children,” Santillan conveyed.
PPA now has seven (7) strategically-located BSDs nationwide, namely, in Manila, Batangas, Iloilo, Matnog, Surigao, Davao and Zamboanga which are being co-managed by VFFI, a Non-Government Organization focused on migrant workers and children’s welfare.
BSD operations at the seaports are hailed as a pioneer effort and a best practice on curbing TIP by several international groups, among them the United States State Department. PPA conceptualized it as early as 1998 through its Gender and Development (GAD) Program.
Halfway houses at the ports is the precursor of the one operated in the Manila International Airport which started a decade later in October 2008.
Victims of trafficking are temporarily sheltered in the BSDs to avail of services such as telephone queries, counselling, debriefing, investigation, and repatriation.
These halfway houses, likewise, serve as an action center to facilitate early detection, arrest, case filing/prosecution and repatriation of TIP victims. Open 24/7, they also have hotline number in Zamboanga – 09264976883 to report trafficking activities.
In 2010 alone, victims of trafficking in Zamboanga reportedly reached 4,664. Most of these are women and minors who have been promised jobs in the city and some abroad such as in Malaysia and in Lebanon of the Middle East but were found out later to be hoax.
The SBATTF is a multi-sectoral partnership in the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region-XI) composed of 22 organizations aimed at reducing trafficking in its jurisdiction. It is an action group arising from the organization of its Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).
“We have this SBATTF, a concerted effort to ensure convictions of violators, not merely preliminary investigations,” Atty. Santillan challenged.
With more active participation from the justice department, Zamboanga City has been credited to have the first successful conviction on the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 in year 2005. It has since been able to convict four (4) other perpetrators, earning the highest number in the country. The latest in February 2010 is also the first on labor trafficking.