Human trafficking for flesh trade on the rise in Mindanao, say two groups
DAVAO CITY — Groups warned of the rising number of human trafficking in the region, victimizing mostly poor minors lured by the immediate prospect of money.
Both Bernardo Mondragon, executive director of the group Child Alert, and Jeanette Ampog, executive director of Talikala, said most of the documented cases of human trafficking in the region this year had minors as victims, who were lured into the growing but clandestine world of “sex entertainment” because of poverty.
Ampog said as the poverty situation worsened, more women and children were trafficked into prostitution. She said that of the 35 cases that Talikala documented in 2011, 33 had minor victims, aged 17 and below. The group considered this an alarming trend because Davao City has become both a receiving and sending area of these trafficked women.
The group estimates some 6,000 prostituted women and children in the city at any given time. While Davao City sends off prostituted women to the towns of Isulan, Tacurong and Polomolok in Sultan Kudarat, Cebu, Palawan, Puerto Gallera and Manila, it also continues to receive such trafficked women from Monkayo in Compostela Valley, Agusan, Surigao and Davao del Sur.
“But although most of the victims of human trafficking are women, some boys are also being lured into the cybersex dens in Davao City because of the promises of big money,” said Mondragon.
He said Child Alert has documented cases of minors, as young as 14 years old, lured into Davao’s cybersex dens, so mobile and probably backed up by a powerful syndicate, they continued to elude apprehending authorities this year.
Mondragon said the cybersex dens have been mostly in private homes, aided only by “spotlight,” laptops and a camera.
“Their experience has left a very deep scar in their self esteem,” Mondragon said of the three boys the group rescued.
“Psycho-social workers have difficulty helping them regain their self-esteem because they feel dirty about themselves,” he said.
The boys were lured to perform “live sex” with the promise of big money. They opened up to Child Alert after attending the group’s information campaign in the barangay (villages).
“At first, one of them was surprised to earn P12,000 in 15 days,” said Mondragon. “But it did not last long. Eventually, they were earning only a third of that amount; and the work left a deep psychological mark on them.”
He said the minors were exposed six hours a day to the “spotlight,” hooked to a camera and two laptops providing “live sex entertainment” to viewers as far as the US.
But attempts to raid the cybersex dens in Sasa District here failed early this year because the operators were alerted before the raiding team arrived.
“Based on the information we got, they only needed three laptops and 25 children in a room,” Mondragon said.
He appealed to people to be alert about suspicious movements of people in the neighborhood.
“Try to watch the houses in your neighborhood, take note of some unusual movement of children coming in and out of the private residences. Most of these children get out of the residences with adults accompanying them,” he said.
Mondragon said the clout of powerful people in authority who have been behind the trafficking and cybersex were among the reasons why minors were too afraid to speak out.
Aside from sexual exploitation, other women are also trafficked for other reasons, such as for forced labor and for the sale of organs. Mondragon said they have been increasing their information campaign in the barangay to alert the community against it.
“The community is our first line of defense,” he said.
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