Trafficking causes traffic

Slavery is often referred to as the oldest form of man’s cruelty against humanity.

I write this piece to provide an alternative perspective to travelers, tourists, and jet setters who have been hounded by the long lines at the airports. As many have already seen, there have been many complaints against immigration officers at international airport terminals. Memes have cropped up about the infamous yearbook incident and passengers getting bumped off their flights due to prolonged questioning by immigration officers.

The power of social and mainstream media has provided us with sufficient context on what the problem is. What needs more emphasis is why the problem exists. In a few words, the answer is MODERN-DAY SLAVERY.

Slavery is defined by many sources as the ownership over another’s person, especially as to the labor the latter may offer. Slavery is often referred to as the oldest form of man’s cruelty against humanity. In fact, the first form of slavery can be traced back 11,000 years ago. However, the form of slavery has changed throughout the decades and centuries.

Fast forward to today, in a world where countries’ barriers seem to shrink day by day, we see a completely different kind of slavery. “Human trafficking” is now the term used but it refers to the same concept. It currently represents the world’s third largest and most profitable crime industry after illegal drugs and arms trafficking. It comes in many forms.

Our laws recognize three main categories of human trafficking: (1) sex trafficking; (2) labor trafficking; and (3) organ trafficking. These main categories have sub-categories that involve different victims, modus operandi, and counter-trafficking approaches. From time to time, existing schemes are refined or new schemes emerge.

One recent scheme is the recruitment of educated, mostly professional, and tech-savvy Filipinos, who are well-traveled or display the financial capacity for travel, to work in regional call centers engaged in online scamming and other fraudulent activities. The seemingly credible profiles of these victims pose a challenge to our implementation of the Departure Formalities as many of them do not share the more apparent vulnerabilities of traditional victims of labor trafficking, such as those Filipinos who are exploited as household workers in the Middle East or fishers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Worthy of note is that these Departure Formalities are only one of the government’s measures to combat human trafficking. It is an integral part of a holistic and multi-dimensional campaign that involves prevention, protection, prosecution, partnership, and policy. None of these measures are mutually exclusive but go hand-in-hand and complement each other. Collectively, they are the reason why the Philippines’ approach has become a model in the worldwide fight against Human Trafficking, for which we have been recognized with a Tier 1 Ranking in the United States’ Trafficking in Persons Report for seven consecutive years. In other words, our efforts have been recognized and lauded by the international community.

Having said all that, I still understand the plight of many of our travelers. It is indeed frustrating to line up at the immigration counter. However, given the backdrop explained above, maybe we can think less about getting to our destination as soon as possible and simply think about our fellow countrymen who have been and who might be subject to modern-day slavery called human trafficking. This is for them.

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