Philippine Christians unite to tackle trafficking

New alliance follows damning report by the US
Philippine Christians unite to tackle trafficking

Sex industry workers in the Philippines (photo by Jimmy Domingo)

Catholic and Protestant Churches in the Philippines have formed an alliance against humann trafficking following a damning assessment last week by the US State Department.

Following US claims of “rampant corruption” at all levels of government which is weakening existing anti-trafficking measures, the Catholic Church announced at the weekend it would team up with the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) to help tackle the problem.

“We may not be aware of it, but this problem is actually worsening [and] victimizing a lot of people," said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the social action secretariat of the Catholic bishops' conference.

Pabillo said members of the alliance are already discussing how churches of different dominations can work together to encourage members to actively fight the problem.

"We really want to make this a massive activity with different churches getting involved. We could not just keep silent about this," said Pabillo.

The presidential palace welcomed the initiative on Sunday.

"We will be making efforts to make sure we address the areas that need to be improved," said presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

The Philippines remains in Tier 2, according to last Thursday’s report, meaning it still does not comply with minimum US requirements to tackle human trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so.

The Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking reported 1,519 cases filed in 2011 with 100 convictions last year.

The Philippines is typically a source country for trafficked people, many of whom end up in forced labor. Pornography and prostitution are key drivers of the trafficking trade, said the US State Department report.

Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action, said at least 20 provinces in the country are prone to human trafficking, especially the impoverished areas of Samar in the center of the country and Palawan, an island chain in the far West. 

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