A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PHILIPPINES' SEX INDUSTRY
MANILA, October 15, 2005 (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee Flores - (Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. Ė Austrian writer Karl Kraus)
Prostitution in the Philippines is not just a festering moral problem, but is now a grave social crisis which might spiral out of control with far-reaching health, criminal and other negative repercussions if unchecked. As our politicos thoughtlessly imperil our economic development with their massive corruption and vicious wars, more and more impoverished young people are falling prey to the dangerous lure of the sex-for-pay trade and possible exploitation by criminals.
Prostituted persons, according to a 1998 International Labor Organization study in 1998, numbered about 400,000 to 500,000. Most of them were adult women, but there were also male, transvestite and child prostitutes, both girls and boys. The number of child prostitutes then was estimated to be around 75,000. Child prostitutes often live perilously and are exploited by crime gangs, pimps and even drug pushers. That 1998 study quoted a former labor undersecretary, Rene Ofreneo, who revealed that the number of prostituted persons in the Philippines was then actually about the size of the countryís manufacturing workforce. With the weakening of the Philippine economy in recent years, how much have these numbers increased?
In 1998, a study claimed that 150,000 Filipino women were trafficked into prostitution in Japan. It is tragic that this was allowed to happen, even as the modern-day Japanese government has refused to officially pay reparations to the estimated 80,000 to 200,000 so-called "comfort women" who were kidnapped Ė and sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers Ė during World War II from Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Malaysia.
The Philippines ranked fourth among nine nations with the most number of children trafficked for prostitution, according to a report by the Consortium Against Trafficking of Children and Women for Sexual Exploitation (Catch-Wise). The Catch-Wise report was presented this year during the international conference on sexual exploitations and it stated that the Philippines is not only the source of 60,000 to 100,000 children for prostitution, but we are now also a transit and destination country for internationally trafficked persons.
Data provided by the International Labor Organization also showed that two to 14 percent of the gross domestic product of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand comes from sex tourism.
Instead of addressing the huge social injustice and other problems of widespread prostitution, or safeguarding the rights and welfare of less fortunate citizens, it is tragic that not a few of our politicians, police or military officers have a dubious track record of sexually exploiting or assaulting girls.
Who was that politician who tried to molest or insult a sexy starlet? Rep. Romeo Jalosjos raped a 12-year-old girl. BiŮan Mayor Bayani Alonte was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. Former Quezon Rep. Manolet Lavides was involved in the prostituting of four high school students from Novaliches High School. Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan was involved in the case of a 16-year-old model being prostituted by talent manager Jojo Veloso.
Past reports recorded that five policemen in San Fabian, Pangasinan were accused of raping an 11-year-old girl inside police barracks, while four policemen on duty were implicated in the rape of a 17-year-old girl inside the police station in Luneta. SPO2 Roel Waga and police investigator in Barangay Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City was involved in the sexual harassment of a 13-year-old girl.
Last Oct. 5, which was "International Day of No Prostitution," this writer researched and went to a huge palatial "spa" in the south of the metropolis to seek out an exclusive interview with a prostitute. After choosing a "masseuse" from an "aquarium" of girls seated inside a well-lit room with a one-way mirror separating them from customers, I paid the afternoon "promo" room rate of P2,000. The regular night room rate is P2,500.
"Anna," in her early 20s, was at first ill at ease when I said I only needed to interview her for a research study. I never mentioned that it was for a newspaper column, but I told her I wouldnít mention her name and would obscure some facts. She only relaxed and laughed when I assured her Iíd pay her usual fee. This was the first time that I had to pay for an interview. Here are excerpts:
PHILIPPINE STAR: In your own assessment, has the number of prostitutes in the Philippines increased or decreased? Why?
ANNA: Of course, the number of prostitutes has increased by threefold. Here in our establishment, many girls coming here every day to apply for work. Times are hard. You know, the government of Japan even stopped the entry of Filipina entertainers there, so lots of women are jobless and end up as prostitutes. Iím not ashamed of my work, at least Iím not stealing.
Have you worked in Japan, too?
Yes, I used to work in Japan. I was there only six months. We enter as entertainers, but most of us have to earn through prostitution. I worked in Nagoya, thatís four hours away from Tokyo.
How was it like working in Japan?
Except for the high pay, I didnít like it much. It was boring. The roads are too quiet, unlike our noisy streets in Metro Manila.
Did your Japanese clients mistreat you?
There were good and bad customers, but in general, the Japanese were OK.
What did you do with your earnings from Japan?
I have some savings. I know the dangers of giving all earnings to relatives. Iím just a simple girl, not very intelligent, but Iím not dumb either. Iím not like other girls who give all their money to family members who do not work. My relatives donít know I have a time deposit account. On men who are bums, I know of two girls who work here in this spa, they have live-in guys who just stay in their homes and are jobless.
Do you have a boyfriend? What is his work?
I used to have a boyfriend. He was my neighbor. Heís now working for a band in Japan. I donít know if weíll get back together. I donít know if itís a good idea to have a boyfriend, especially with my kind of work. Iím still helping out my siblings in their schooling, but they donít know I work here.
Why did you enter prostitution?
For the money, of course. If youíre poor, you have few choices in life. People go into prostitution due to poverty.
Why do you think the Philippines has become such a poor nation?
Iím not an intelligent person, I didnít go to college. But isnít it obvious that too much corruption by our politicians is one big reason why the Philippines is economically so poor? I think our many corrupt leaders are terrible hypocrite. At least prostitutes like me are not hypocrites; we are trying to work honestly.
Are you in favor of deposing the present government?
We should do more than just change political leaders. We keep changing the politicians, but all of them just end up stealing. Most of our political leaders are thieves. You know, I might be a prostitute and am looked down upon by society, but I think I have a more honorable job than our politicians who steal and make the country poor. We prostitutes work hard for our money. We do not steal.
Do you have any suggestions on how to solve the massive corruption by our politicians?
Thatís very easy. Increase the punishment for corruption and be sure to jail the powerful big shots in politics. If we are serious about fighting corruption, show us the highest punishment for these corrupt people. But I doubt they are really serious about this.
Where are you from? How long have you been working here?
I was born in a province in northern Luzon. I am the eldest of seven kids from a poor family. I was a child when our father left us. Iíve been here only three months. I studied only up to high school. I used to work as a saleslady in a department store. I wanted to become a nurse but I guess itís impossible now.
How many hours do you work here?
I work eight hours daily. Yes, management told us that if we are studying, they can adjust our work hours to even four hours daily.
You will not always be young and I donít think you want to be working here forever. You can save and study to be a caregiver. Look at movie stars, they are not always popular, and if they donít plan the future, they suffer.
I agree. Yes, I will study to become a caregiver. I hear itís easier to enter Japan as a caregiver now than an entertainer. I wish all my customers are as nice as you. Are you sure you donít want even just a massage?
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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