Face the ChildrenPhilippine Frontline Ministries, Inc.

Human Trafficking

At Face the Children (FTC) we are gravely concerned about the problem of human trafficking in the Philippines. We desire to see its end, to support those who have been victimized by it, and to protect those at risk of predators.

The United Nations has declared the Philippines as a source country for men, women, and children for sex trafficking and forced labor. Although the exact number of victims is hard to determine, it is believed to be in the hundreds of thousands. Even those that migrate overseas seeking employment may find themselves forced into involuntary servitude, working in factories, construction sites, domestic positions, fishing vessels, and prostitution.

Many Filipinos are trafficked from rural area to urban communities such as Manila. Men are often subjected into forced labour and debt bondage. Women and children are often forced into domestic roles, working in small factories, forced begging, or into the sex trade.

The UN Refugee Agency (2012) reports that:

Traffickers, in partnership with organized crime syndicates and corrupt law enforcement officers, regularly recruit family and friends from villages and urban neighborhoods, often masquerading as representatives of government-registered employment agencies. Fraudulent recruitment practices and the institutionalized practice of paying recruitment fees often leave workers vulnerable to forced labor, debt bondage, and commercial sexual exploitation. Reports that illicit recruiters increased their use of student, intern, and exchange program visas to circumvent the Philippines government and receiving countries' regulatory frameworks for foreign workers are not uncommon. Recruiters adopted new methods in attempts to avoid government-run victim detection units at airports and seaports. Traffickers utilized budget airlines, inter-island ferries and barges, buses, and even chartered flights to transport their victims domestically and internationally.

Some of the children involved in human trafficking are forced into the sex trade including sex tourism. Perpetrators from other parts of Asia, North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand travel to the Philippines to engage in commercial sexual exploitation of children. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons warned "human traffickers were using new technologies, such as the internet, to seek out more victims, especially for the purposes of cybersex and pornography (November 9, 2012)."

The causes of human trafficking in the Philippines includes:

  • Conflicts between rebel groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines has left between 128,000 to 160,000 displaced and vulnerable individuals (2010)
  • Poverty may cause parents to see child labour as a means to help cope with low family incomes
  • Filipinos facing high unemployment in rural areas move to urban areas seeking a better life
  • Many jobs in the Philippines are "informal," resulting in between 40-80% of Filipino workers not being registered or recorded in official statistics and therefor out of reach of social protection and labor legislation.
  • There are an estimated 900,000 Filipinos who are undocumented (lack birth certificates) which contributes to their vulnerability.
  • Organized crime networks take advantage of vulnerable individuals, recruiting them for jobs that are in fact forced labor situations
  • Complicity by law enforcement and corruption within the government

We at FTC recognize that the scope of this issue is huge, but we also know that with God's grace we can do our part to help prevent children from being victimized by human trafficking. FTC also serves to help heal the hearts of those that have been victimized, by providing a place of safety and protection, a loving environment, and education and development that gives hope.

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At FACE the Children (FTC) we dream of a Philippines where every child has a safe place to call home that provides them with sufficient food, education, health care, education, spiritual development, and caring adults that can responsibly mentor them.

It is almost impossible to give an accurate statistic regarding the number of children that live on the streets in the Philippines. Though the "problem" is clearly visible, like so many social issues, it is easier to ignore than to address. There have been estimates of nearly 250,000 to 1.5 million street children have been reported.

"A Better Life" Foundation categorizes street children as follows:

  • Children on the streets make up approximately 75% of the street children. They work on the streets but do not live there. Often they have a home to return to and some continue to attend school while working long hours on the streets.
  • Children of the street make their home on the street. They are 25-30% of Filipino street children. They may gather in pseudo-families with other street children. They may continue to have family ties but contact is minimal and often not of a positive nature.
  • Completely abandoned children have no ties with biological family and rely on their own means for their physical and psychological survival. They make up approximately 5-10% of Filipino street children.

Street children can be found in the smallest village to the largest centers, though many do migrate to larger urban centers possibly in hope of seeking livelihood opportunities. Street children often gather in places where the public congregates: transportation hubs, parks, near restaurants, and shopping areas. Locating themselves in these areas may be perceived as providing them with greater opportunities to get an odd job, or in all likelihood, increase their success at begging for money or food. While this may be true, their presence in these areas can however cause conflict with business owners, law enforcement, etc. Street children are often called "yagit" by the general public. This translates to "street rubbish."

In addition to the inherent risk of living without adequate shelter, Filipino street children also face the following risks:

  • Drugs - many street children are drawn to using solvents and inhalants. A brand of glue known as Rugby is often used as in addition to providing hallucinogenic effects, it also helps to curb hunger pangs.
  • Health - street children are frequently malnourished, are injured by passing vehicles and street high fights. Many are attacked by business owners who want them to move away from their establishments or by pimps who have forced them into the sex trade. Sexually transmitted diseases are highly prevalent amongst street children.
  • Child prostitution and sexual exploitation - many children are drawn into the sex trade as a means of survival; a way for food and shelter to be provided. Others are abducted and forced into the sex trade.
  • Violence - Street children do not have a voice. They are easy targets for physical and sexual assault. In some areas, street children, seen as an annoyance, have been murdered.

The issue seems overwhelming but with the assistance of caring sponsors and by God's grace, we can make a difference in the lives of many of these children.

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We believe that education can transform lives. Many of the children we serve have never received any formal education, or were severely undereducated prior to coming into our program. Many have not had access to education because of poverty and the inability to pay school fees, or even proximity to schools, disabilities, or because they are living on the streets. Often, even very young children are sent out by family members to work to help support the family in any way possible. We strive to change these realities.

The situation is particularly distressing for children who are displaced from their home. Children and adolescents may choose to leave home for physical, sexual or mental safety reasons, believing they are safer out on their own. Children may be left in the care of family members or friends when their parents leave their community or go overseas for employment. If these care arrangements break down for whatever reason, the child may choose to flee. Education is no longer a priority for them, survival is.

The World Health Organization (2008) states that 92% of Filipino students attend primary school however this drops significantly as they enter secondary school, with just 55% of males and 70% of females attending. They continue to cite that only 18.6% of graduating students continue on to college level studies. Jobs such as those for waiters and supermarket cashiers are often advertised as requiring completion of a four year degree. Without a solid education, these children and adolescents are facing near impossible challenges to break the grip of cyclic (generational) poverty.

Even if the young person is fortunate to get to school, the public school system is woefully underfunded. The United Nations (2010) reports that just 2.7% of the Philippines Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes towards education. In comparison, the Unites States spends 5.5%. Students may find four or more students sharing a textbook in a classroom with 60 other students.

Most of the school aged children served by FTC attend school at our own Frontline Christian Academy, Inc. (or FCA), a government recognized and licensed school. Most incoming children receive initial care and beginning classes at our FTC Interim Center. We have also partnered with another school to help meet the unique needs and develop the gifts of students with special needs. Students are taught using first rate local and American curriculum, taught by caring teachers in classes that average about 12 students per class currently. We are excited to have some of those we support graduate from FCA into lives as college students.

Children and adolescents who once may have seen little hope for their future are being given an opportunity to learn in FCA's nurturing and academic environment, providing opportunities for growth and skill development that will serve them well into the future.

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