ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 24, 2011) - Local police held Thursday dozens of Filipino women intercepted in Zamboanga City in Mindanao Island on their way to the Malaysian state of Sabah.
Police suspect the women were recruited from as far as Luzon Island and other provinces and Metro-Manila to work in the oil-rich state near the southern Filipino province of Tawi-Tawi and other countries in Asia and the Middle East.
It said more than 80 women were supposed to take a chartered flight to Malaysia when airport security intercepted them on Thursday.
The women said they were on a travel tour, but many of them could not answer routine questions asked by immigration officers at the Zamboanga International Airport.
Police have mounted an investigation into the group on suspicion they were victims of human trafficking and have sent them to social centers for further questioning.
According to a Washington-based organization, which monitors human trafficking cases around the world, the Philippines is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking.
The number of Philippine and foreign child victims in the country range from 20,000 to 100,000. Foreign tourists, particularly other Asians, sexually exploit women and children in the Philippines, the HumanTrafficking.Org reported.
It said Filipino men, women, and girls were trafficked for labor and sexual exploitation to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, North America, and Europe.
But other statistics show that the number of women trafficked range from 300,000 to 400,000 and the number of children trafficked range from 60,000 to 100,000. Many Filipino men and women voluntarily migrate to work abroad but later coerced into exploitative conditions.
The Philippines was placed in Tier 2 in the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but making significant efforts to do so, the HumanTrafficking.Org further said.
The 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act criminalizes human trafficking, with penalties up to life in prison. The law allows private prosecutors, including nongovernmental organizations to file lawsuits against traffickers. (Mindanao Examiner)