HUMAN TRAFFICKERS PROWLING IN DAVAO / SANTA CAME TO COMPOSTELA VALLEY


[PHOTO- SENATOR LOREN LEGARADA]

MANILA, DECEMBER 24, 2012 (INQUIRER) By - Senator Loren Legarda is expecting President Benigno Aquino to immediately sign the recently approved Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act amid reports of human traffickers preying on vulnerable women and children in the typhoon-ravaged areas of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Legarda, the chair of the Senate sub-committee looking into human trafficking, has indicated “extreme alarm” over reports of human traffickers in Mindanao’s devastated communities in the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo.

She urged local government officials and citizens alike to be watchful.

“We have seen the need to strengthen the existing law, and we have acted swiftly on it. But human trafficking, and the related problems of the illegal sex trade, forced labor, and other forms of slavery, is a complex web. Battling it requires concerted effort from all sectors of society,” Legarda said.

“Remember that traffickers target the most vulnerable sectors of society and this is the injustice that we must act against. Those responsible must be caught and subjected to our criminal laws. Furthermore, we also look forward to the immediate enactment of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act,” she added in a statement.

Legarda said the measure passed by Congress is a strengthened version of the anti-trafficking law since it covers attempted trafficking and accessory or accomplice liability, thereby covering more trafficking-related acts and individuals.

The bill is one of those waiting for Aquino’s signature after being passed by Congress.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman was earlier reported as seeking the help of relief workers in spreading information on human trafficking. Soliman was quoted as saying that the situation was ripe for human traffickers.

“More than the horizontal values, we need to inform them that there is going to be a better way (of surviving),” Soliman said.

According to Legarda, who’s also the chair of the Senate committee on climate change, “disasters are linked inextricably to poverty and socio-economic inequality.”

“It is important to realize that the changing climate will have its worst effects on the poorest of the poor, and nowhere is this clearer than in these reports of human traffickers prowling Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental,” Legarda said.

“Men, women and children from marginalized and devastated communities are at high risk, and we must do everything in our power to stop these illegal operations once and for all,” she added.

Legarda said the problem of human trafficking will only become more pronounced as Filipinos are left vulnerable as a result of disasters.

“We are now seeing the intersecting forces of natural hazards and human greed, and how they threaten those who are already marginalized. This is an issue of utmost importance,” Legarda said.

PRESS RELEASE

CHILD RIGHTS ADVOCATES BELIE PNOY’S CLAIM ON AFP’s HONOR, INTEGRITY AND SERVICES

Children’s Rehabilitation Center NATIONAL OFFICE 90J Bugallon St., Project 4 Quezon City 1109 Philippines http://www.aijc.com.ph/crc/print.preview/child.rehab.html

December 22, 2012 

Reference: Jacquiline Ruiz, Executive Director (913-9244) Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)

Children’s rights defenders decry over Pnoy’s statement during the 77th Founding Anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He reiterated in his statement the AFPs role in a democratic society, “Defend the nation and serve only one Boss—the people, nothing else.”

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) is a non-government organization providing psycho-social services for children victims of human rights violations. According to Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC’s Executive Director, “The statement is in contrast with the glaring reality of massive violations under the term of Mr. Aquino, affecting or directly victimizing children.”

The CRC has documented in over two years of the Aquino administration (14) cases of extra-judicial killings, (18) frustrated killings, (15) illegal arrests and detention, (13) cases of torture, (4) rape and sexual assault and numerous number of attacks on schools.

“Even with the escalating cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, attacks on schools and massive military deployment infesting rural poor communities, Mr. Aquino still have the guts to arrogantly claim improving human rights situation in the Philippines and cover up the blood-tainted AFP,” Ruiz said.

Rey Rodrigo, a 17 year-old boy farmer, was tortured, arrested, branded as child soldier and filed with trumped up charges in San Andres, Quezon Province last 22nd of March.

Though the charges were dismissed, Rodrigo is still in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), unable to go back to his normal life and join his family this Christmas.

Ruiz also emphasized the continuous injustice felt by families and victims of Pnoy’s predecessor. “Perpetrators like the notorious butcher Jovito Palparan are still at large while battalions of soldiers continue to wreak havoc on the civilian populace.”

Under the deceptive Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP used the “peace and development slogan” in order to conduct civic-military operations in communities while sowing terror among the community members, including children. The promise of a righteous path (daang matuwid) proved to be a mere rhetoric.

CRC and other child rights advocates urge and challenge President Aquino as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to do necessary investigation on child rights violations as well as other state-perpetrated violence and to punish the perpetrators.

“We are demanding the Aquino government to put an end to the culture of impunity and respect and uphold children’s rights and human rights,” Ruiz ended. ###

FROM THE INQUIRER


[PHOTO -SURVIVORS of Typhoon “Pablo” in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, reach out for relief goods being handed out from a dump truck. FRINSTON LIM / INQUIRER MINDANAO]

Santa comes to ComVal Volunteers gift ‘Pablo’ victims with relief goods By Edwin O. Fernandez, Frinston Lim, Nico Alconaba Inquirer Mindanao, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. In fact, there are Santa Clauses.

They arrived immediately after Typhoon “Pablo” hit Mindanao. Most of them are soldiers from the 10th Infantry Division, who, along with rescue workers, were among the first to come, braving floods, mud and fallen trees to save lives in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

For the soldiers, there was no need to know who had been naughty or nice, even if the village of Andap, which was hardest-hit in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley, is known to be influenced by the communist New People’s Army.

Then came the volunteers who distributed relief goods for the thousands of homeless residents in New Bataan. Among them were boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and actress and World Food Programme Ambassador of Goodwill KC Concepcion.

Neighboring cities and provinces also sent help—truckloads of food stuff, bottled water, medicines and tents.

Medical teams, both government and private, also arrived to check up the survivors.

The death toll from Pablo’s sweep on Dec. 4 has reached 1,067, with another 800 missing, according to civil defense officials. More than 60,000 people have been left homeless.

In Tagum City, nurses, social workers and other volunteers have been helping the local government in taking care of evacuees.

The medical and social workers are working 24/7 to provide physical, social and emotional care to the victims as Tagum opened its doors to “adopt” the displaced residents of New Bataan, Compostela and Monkayo towns.

“We provide them with medical and other services to help them cope,” Nora Lupiba, chief of the city social welfare and development office, said.

Reaching out

Mayor Rey Uy has allotted more than P6 million for food and nonfood assistance to 2,000 evacuees from the three towns devastated by the Dec. 4 tragedy.

“It’s our way of reaching out to them,” Uy said.

Nurse Dianne Grace Pama said taking care of the evacuees was the least she could do at this time of great calamity.

Pama and three other health professionals from the Department of Health’s RN HEALS program are also acting as caregivers, changing underclothes of female evacuees and attending to the injured.

One of the victims is a teenage Ata-Manobo girl from Compostela town. The girl was in a state of shock when she arrived by bus with other evacuees on Dec. 8. She could not even recall her identity and family.

“She was found and rescued by other residents during the flooding. She had many injuries that had to be treated,” said Dr. Arnel Florendo of the city health office.

One of the nurses was combing the girl’s hair while another was feeding her when the Philippine Daily Inquirer visited the Rotary Park gym in Tagum on Sunday.

Employees of the city government also pitched in to help, with at least 100 of them visiting New Bataan on Thursday and distributing 10,000 bread packs to victims at the town’s gymnasium in Cabinuangan village.

Uy said the city government provided flour and other ingredients for the bakeries in the city to make bread.

Operation Smile

In Davao Oriental, private groups like Help Cateel and Samahan sa Kinablangan (a village in Baganga town), continue with their relief missions— transporting truckloads of relief good from Davao City.

At the provincial capitol in Mati City, residents, mostly students, repack relief goods that are sent to Cateel, Boston and Baganga onboard a Philippine Navy vessel.

Medical teams, like the Tsu Chi Foundation from Zamboanga City and Operation Smile from Koronadal City, also came—attending to injuries of the survivors.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao likewise sent relief goods and medical teams.

The Mati City government dispatched a 20-member team to start a soup kitchen in Baganga—cooking arroz caldo and roaming around town to feed residents.

Marikit Quiñones, a member of the soup kitchen team, was surprised to see how disciplined the people of Baganga were even if they were starving.

“I expected it to be a ‘survival of the fittest’ kind of thing, but residents there made sure children were first in line when we gave out arroz caldo,” Quiñones said.

Sharing Christmas

She added that children even volunteered to wash the pots.

More “Santas” are expected to come during the holidays.

Mayor Joselito Piñol of Mlang, North Cotabato, said a 70-member team from the municipal office will celebrate Christmas Day with the victims in Compostela Valley.

“This will be our most meaningful Christmas, sharing our blessings with the victims of calamity in Compostela Valley,” Piñol told the Inquirer yesterday.

“We decided to cancel all Christmas parties of various line agencies,” he said. “Instead, the funds to be used for the parties were all set aside for the flood victims.”

“To make it more meaningful, we all agreed to conduct relief operations from Dec. 24 to 26, meaning we will be celebrating Christmas with the calamity victims,” he said.

The Mlang team will include several medical workers.

“We may not be celebrating this Christmas with our respective families but surely we can make the affected families happy with our presence and our presents,” Piñol said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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