Pandemic leaves vulnerable Filipinos more prone to exploitation, CHR says
The 2020 observance of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons focuses on its front liners.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, file

Pandemic leaves vulnerable Filipinos more prone to exploitation, CHR says

(Philstar.com) - July 30, 2020 - 11:08am

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the livelihoods of people rendered many Filipinos more vulnerable to exploitation, the Commission on Human Rights said on the observance of  World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia noted that the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with quarantine protocols “exacerbated the plight of many vulnerable Filipinos as traffickers see this as an opportune time to exploit their desperation.”

De Guia said the pandemic upended the livelihoods of many Filipinos, as businesses close and employees are displaced or laid off. “This desperate situation, coupled with confinement at home, has led to the increase in cybersex trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC),” she stressed.

In late May, the Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime, citing data by private nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said 279,166 incidents of OSEC were reported from March 1 to May 24 in 2020.

This posts a 264.6% rise from cases logged during the same period last year, where 76,551 reports were recorded. 

The International Justice Mission’s study, released also in May, found that the Philippines has become the world’s largest known source of online child sexual exploitation, with endemic poverty helping drive a surge in abuse.

The commission also said that due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy, many migrant Filipinos are rendered more vulnerable and prone to exploitation, with several “trapped with their traffickers and/or abusers, particularly those in domestic servitude or sex slavery, which disproportionately affect women and girls.”

“The current challenges highlight the importance of trafficking prevention and response in times of outbreak and crisis. Frontline workers, in this sense, play an essential role in addressing this problem amid the overwhelming challenges that beset social and public services,” De Guia added.

Empower frontliners

CHR noted that this year’s observance trains the spotlight on the first responders: The social workers, labor inspectors, law enforcement officers and prosecutors, health workers and non-government organization staff.

“Despite the restrictions and the risks, they exert their best effort to find the victims; provide them with essential support; and assist them in the often arduous and difficult process of accessing justice, healing, and rebuilding their lives,” De Guia added.

The CHR stressed the government must ensure that frontliners against human trafficking has sufficient support to address this crime amid the quarantine period.

“Human trafficking reflects a failure to protect the most vulnerable. The marginalized sector needs the government and the society's utmost protection and assistance during normal times and even more so in this period of health and economic crisis,” she added. — Kristine Joy Patag

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