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The Naked Anthropologist · Philippines | Trafficking | Laws | Rescue | Prostitute Victims | The Naked Anthropologist

How ‘Rescue’ from trafficking yet again means police detention and rehabilitation: this time in the Philippines

The sequence of events goes like this:

  1. US government issues annual report card threatening to cut off aid from countries that don’t make the right efforts to combat trafficking
  2. Threatened countries comply by passing legislation
  3. And then instructing local police to carry out raids in order to ‘rescue’ victims
  4. Police go to sex businesses, pick up all the workers and claim to have rescued them
  5. Police say victims (sex workers) will be ‘rehabilitated’ via detention and forcible participation in an ‘alternative work’ programme, whether rescued people want this or not
  6. Threatened national governments point to these actions to show US that they are fighting crime
  7. US gives them a better grade on the next report card

Problems? Well yes, several, including the overtly neocolonialist coercion. In the following story which pointedly uses the word rescue, the police try to blame foreign devils for the existence of sex businesses, make sure to point out that some of those rescued were ‘only waitresses’ (which perfectly shows what they think about prostitutes), and, most important, if compliance with US aims to ‘convict’ traffickers is what’s needed, how does detaining and forcibly rehabilitating 200 victims help? What we’ve learned over and over is that some large number of the detained women do not want to be rescued, or not by the police, or not from sex work but possibly from poverty or the fear of disappointing their parents. I have unfortunately had to comment repeatedly on such stories, including recently on Cambodia. There are other ways to help people.

Anti-human trafficking agency rescues 200 women from Malate

Francis Faulve, 18 June 2010, ABS-CBN News

Manila, Philippines – The government’s anti-human trafficking task force on Thursday night rescued at least 200 women from a girlie bar in Malate district in Manila.

Retired military officer Jesus Kabigting of the government’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking said the raid was conducted in response to the US State Department’s report on human trafficking in the Philippines. The US State Department said the Philippines remains in the Tier 2 list of countries whose governments have failed to show improved efforts to curb human trafficking.

Representatives from the Manila Police District, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Labor of Employment raided the LA Cafe at the corner of M.H. Del Pilar and R. Salas streets in Malate around 10:30 p.m.

Kabigting said majority of the women are being peddled to foreigners in Malate district. He said some of those rescued were only waitresses, but are also considered as victims of forced labor and human trafficking.

He said the women, particularly the prostitutes, will be “rehabilitated” and provided with alternative livelihood.

“Anti-human trafficking operations ito… Iyon ang dahilan kaya nagsagawa tayo ng walang humpay na operation against human trafficking (This ia an anti-human trafficking operation... That is the reason why we are conducting operations against human trafficking),” Kabigting told reporters referring to the US State Department’s report. He said similar raids will also be conducted nationwide.

Kabigting assured that charges will be filed against the owner of the bar. “Whether they have a permit to operate or not, they are committing acts in violation of the anti-human trafficking law. We will investigate them,” he said.

The US State Department was critical of the Philippine performance in all three benchmarks (prevention, protection and prosecution). It said that despite several labor trafficking cases were filed, the Philippine government never convicted any offenders. “Despite overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of significant progress in convicting trafficking offenders, particularly those responsible for labor trafficking,” the US State Department said in its report.

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