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Trafficking In Women and Children
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|Trafficking In Women and Children (TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN
By: Judge Nimfa Cuesta Vilches
A girl child in the Philippines is discriminated upon early in life due to culture-based and family reinforced gender biases. For instance, despite her special nutritional needs in preparation as future mother and nurturer, the girl child is allotted less food than her father and her brothers. When money for education is scarce, her brothers are given the preference.
The Filipino girl child takes the stereotyped role of her mother who is portrayed as an abused and submissive woman relegated to domestic work. Moreover, the public considers girls and women as sex objects and typifies them as club/bar entertainers, beauty pageant contestants, and racy or pornographic film stars.
The pejorative expectations that Filipino society has on women and children are compounded by problems of extreme poverty; massive labor export; globalization; porous borders; aggressive tourism campaigns; negative portrayal of women by mass media; pornography on-line and internet chat-rooms; the practice of mail-order brides; inter-country adoption; and joint military exercises in the country with visiting forces from abroad. These factors cause women to become easy victims of sex-trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation either in the Philippines or in countries of destination.
To date, more than 4 million Filipinos are unemployed and 40% of them are women. There were around 600,000 prostitutes in the Philippines in the year 2000 and 50,000 of them were children. In September 2002, a staggering number of 1.6 million Filipinos left the country to work abroad and 48% of them are female. In the first quarter of the year 2003, there were 2,872 sexually abused and exploited children. Further, the number of girl children in the year 2000 which was estimated at 16.7 million will significantly increase to 17.4 million in 2005.
Trafficked persons outside of the Philippines fall under the category of "overseas Filipino in distress" entitled to all legal assistance extended by the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act. Additionally, the anti-trafficking law recognizes that trafficked persons are victims and as such, are not penalized for crimes directly related to any act of trafficking. As a consequence, consent of the trafficked person to the intended trafficking is assumed to be irrelevant.
Trafficking also means the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes, at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.
Nationals of foreign countries who are trafficked in the Philippines come within the purview of the law. Such persons are entitled to the same protection, assistance and services given to trafficked Filipinos. The foreign nationals are permitted continued presence in the country for a length of time as necessary to effect prosecution of offenders.
Any undue recruitment, hiring, adoption, and movement of persons and children for removal or sale of organs or for the children to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad are also considered acts of trafficking.
All those who create demand for trafficking of women and children that usually results in prostitution are punished under the above provisions of the law.
Worthy of note at this juncture is the recent effort of the Philippine Government to include as predicate crime under the Anti-Money Laundering Law child prostitution. Predicate crimes are those which would trigger immediate investigation by the anti-money laundering council making it easier to stop the flow of money from illegal activities.
Among the important functions of the Council are: (a) to formulate programs that will prevent trafficking; (b) promulgate rules and regulations to implement the law; (c) monitor strict implementation; (d) coordinate inter-agency projects; (e) conduct massive information campaign; (f) direct other agencies to immediately respond to problems of trafficking; (g) assist in the filing of cases against offenders; (h) formulate programs for reintegration of trafficked persons; (i) secure assistance from government and NGOs to implement the law; (j) share information and have continuing research on the patterns and schemes of trafficking; and (k) initiate training programs.
The victim has a period of 10 years within which to commence a criminal complaint. Where trafficking is carried out by a syndicate or when done in large scale, the period to prosecute is 20 years from the time the victim is released from the conditions of bondage.
Pursuant to the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act, the investigation of offenses committed against women must be handled by an all-female team of police officers, examining physicians and prosecutors. Protective measures such as the right to privacy and closed-door investigations are accorded to the victim.
The personal circumstances of the trafficked victim are not to be disclosed to the public and the investigation is conducted in a language known or familiar to the victim. Every trafficked woman or child enjoys preferential entitlement to the benefits under Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection Program.
When the persons trafficked are children, the Special Protection of Children Act and the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness mandate that there must only be a single interview by a multidisciplinary group of professionals recorded in audio or video tape. In this way, the child victim does not suffer the damaging effect of feeling re-victimized through a series of repeated questioning.
When women or girls are the offended parties, the "sexual shield rule" bars the offender from offering evidence which tends to establish the fact that the victims engaged in other sexual behaviors or show proof of their sexual predisposition. This demonstrates good court practice by way of being gender and child sensitive when dealing with cases on women and children.
Philippine courts are likewise venturing into the use of DNA forensic evidence to prove sexual offenses against very young child victims whose testimonial capacities are limited and inadequate. The judges are altogether open to the idea of knowing how a set of behavioral patterns common to victims of violence against women and children like the "battered woman syndrome" and the "child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome" would impact court dispositions of trafficking offenses.
When child victims are involved, the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness allows the court to accept hearsay evidence. Medical certificates are not required to commence a criminal case of sexual abuse neither are such evidences necessary to make a finding of guilt.
The anti-trafficking law clearly outlines the penalty and fine to be imposed on the offender. It further authorizes the court to order the confiscation and forfeiture of the proceeds and instruments derived from trafficking.
Where the offender seeks on appeal to a higher court a reduction of the penalty applied, appellate courts adopt the policy of according weight to the findings of the lower court judges who were in the best position to observe the demeanor of the parties.
Aside from the mandatory services which have to be made available to victims of trafficking, programs that are on priority list of the of the Trust Fund are research and data collection; technical support to government and non-government organization (NGOs); seminars for consensus building; and awareness raising regarding trafficking in persons.
In 1989, she was appointed as Municipal Trial Court Judge of Barugo, Leyte, and was assigned to the Metropolitan Trial Courts of Manila, Makati, and Caloocan. In 1999, she was appointed as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 48, Manila, a family court.
Judge Vilches received trainings on "Evidence" conducted by the National Judicial Institute Of Canada (NJI), Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, on 23-27 August 2004 sponsored by NJI and the Supreme Court of the Philippines; "ChildrenĀ-s Rights" at Oxford University, England, sponsored by the British Council; "Trafficking In Persons" at Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, sponsored by the British Council and the Supreme Court of the Philippines; "Evidence In Family Court and Role of the Judge" at the University of Nevada in Reno, USA, sponsored by UNICEF; DNA and Forensic Matters at the Home Office, United Kingdom, arranged by the British Embassy, Manila; Philippines; "The Legal and Technical Aspects of DNA" at the Applied Biosystem in Foster City, California, USA; "Crimes Against Children" conducted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice; and "Juvenile Justice", conducted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in Houston, Texas, USA.
The professional qualifications of Judge Vilches are as follows: Professor of Family Law, Ateneo Law School and recipient of the Chief Justice Ramon Avancena Professorial Chair in Civil Law for the years 2004-2005 and 2003-2004; Chairperson, Task-Force On Justice For Children, Council For the Welfare of Children (CWC), Office of the President of the Philippines; a Member of the Faculty and Research Group of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJA), Supreme Court; Lecturer for the University of the Philippines Law Center-Institute of Judicial Administration (UP-IJA) and UNDP to train Nepal judges and justices on women and childrenĀ-s concerns, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) of the Department of Justice for the mandatory continuing legal education program; provides study tours of the juvenile and family court system to visiting counterparts from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Bhutan, Cambodia and Mongolia; and gives trainings for UNICEF-Manila.
In May 2002, Judge Vilches was chosen as a Member of the Philippine Delegation to the UN General Assembly Special Session for Children in New York, USA; was a Delegate-Rapporteur to the 1st Australasian Judicial Forum in Manila in January 2003, and was a Delegate-Rapporteur, Asia-Europe Experts Meeting in Manila in March 2003. In August 2004, Judge Vilches presented the paper on "Trafficking In Women and Children" at the 31st International Convention Of Social Welfare Agencies (ICSWA) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia http://www.ncwsdm-icsw31.org/. In September 2004, Judge Vilches was part of the Canadian-Philippine judicial team that developed a course on family mediation.
Judge Vilches has written the articles ĀĀTrafficking In Women and Children"; "Are You Ready To Be A CASA/GAL Volunteer?;" and "DNA And The Courts" which have been widely published locally and internationally. In 1999, she started a program in the Philippines called "CASA/GAL" composed of trained community volunteers who advocate and promote the best interests of children in court. In 2004, CASA/GAL was voted by UNICEF as one of the ten innovative initiatives for East Asia and the Pacific.
In February 2004, Judge Vilches was nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council, Supreme Court of the Philippines for the post of Associate Justice, Court of Appeals and was nominated in March 2004 to the Gender Justice Awards. She is a member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), Reno Nevada, USA; The International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates (IAYFJM), Belfast, Northern Ireland; and The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), United States of America.
Judge Vilches will deliver the paper "Trafficking In Women And Children" in one of the plenary sessions at the 4th World Congress on Family Law and ChildrenĀ-s Rights, 20-23 March, 2005 at Cape Town, South Africa. www.lawrights.asn.au