Anti Mail-Order Bride Law Philippines Doesn’t Limit Human Trafficking
MANILA: Like many Filipinos, 20-year-old Analyn dreamed of a brighter future for her family abroad, but instead of a well-paying job, she was forced to marry a man more than twice her age from South Korea to get an entry visa to that country.
Yet Analyn, whose nightmare began in December 2007, was also luckier than most. Before joining her new “husband”, she had to secure a clearance certificate from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), a legal requirement for all those wishing to work abroad, and took the opportunity to report her case.
“It is always better if we can prevent them from leaving the country. But sometimes the victims don’t know they are victims,” Janet Ramos of the CFO Task Force Against Human Trafficking told IRIN in Manila.
Such cases are not unusual in the Philippines, which remains a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking, say specialists.
“Trials often take years to conclude because of a lack of judges and courtrooms, high turnover [of judges], and non-continuous trials, which cause some victims to withdraw their testimony.”
– The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Although many Filipinos are voluntary labour migrants, many like Analyn are later coerced into exploitative conditions, including forced marriages.
Humantrafficking.org a web resource for combating human trafficking, reports that between 300,000 and 400,000 women are trafficked annually.
But despite strict laws to combat it, the country’s legal system is apparently unable to prosecute such cases, allowing traffickers to work with impunity.
According to a US State Department 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report released in June, “the government’s ability to effectively prosecute trafficking crimes is severely limited by an inefficient judicial system and endemic corruption”, with the result that it has been downgraded to Tier 2 Watch-list status.
This refers to countries that are making “significant efforts to comply with the [Office to Monitor and Trafficking of Persons] OMCTP standards but show no evidence that they increased their efforts compared to the previous year”. A country may also be demoted to the Watch-list if the number of cases increases.
“It [the fight against human trafficking] is sustained but inadequate,” the report stated.
The CFO is helping Analyn in her case against the traffickers but it is taking time. Since filing her case in early 2008, there have three hearings, the last in June, all of which have been postponed or delayed for various reasons.
Analyn has been approached by the traffickers to settle the case and although she says she has no plans to give up, Ivy Miravales, her CFO handler, is worried.
“We know she has other problems. She doesn’t have a job and her family is poor. We hope she’ll be able to keep up the fight,” she said.
“It’s supposedly hard to prove exploitation because she got away.”
– Janet Ramos, CFO Task Force Against Human Trafficking
To ensure a greater chance of conviction, instead of trying the case under Republic Act 9208, otherwise known as the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which could be more difficult to prove given she escaped, the judge wants the case tried under Republic Act 6955 or the Anti-Mail Order Bride Law.
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