Law Enforcement and Child Trafficking in the Philippines
Effective law enforcement can create needed deterrents to human trafficking.
Posted May 14, 2022 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
- Trafficking rings in the Philippines are skilled at luring in minors.
- The Philippine government, using law enforcement, is going all-out to change the country's role as a top sex-tourism destination.
- Jailing one trafficker typically prevents 100 children from being trafficked.
The Philippines has a distinction that some people are working to change. It is among the world’s top destinations for sex tourism.
“We have 784,000 victims of trafficking in the Philippines,” states Mimi Fabe, professor of fnancial terrorism and transnational organized Ccime at the National Police College of the Philippines. “This record is worse than what we find in neighboring countries. Today, the Philippine government is greatly expanding its efforts to change this.”
Sex Tourists Are Often Pedophiles
Human trafficking comes in many forms, but the sex tourists in the Philippines are often pedophiles. Here’s an example that Fabe sees all too often:
“A trafficker will come into a community and find out cases where the family breadwinner has been laid off from a job. The family still has the same ongoing expenses for food and shelter, but now they have no income. They’re vulnerable,” Fabe says.
Criminals Lure Children
The trafficker will then set about gaining the parents’ trust, Fabe reports. He–or sometimes she–will tell the parents that if they’ll just allow their 6-year-old boy to come with them for an evening, the parents will immediately be given 1000 Philippine pesos, or about $20.
“This amount is a fortune to the parents,” points out Fabe.
Being desperate, and not understanding what they’re getting into, the parents agree. The trafficker takes the boy to a nearby hotel and tells him they’re playing a game. “Take off your shirt,” the trafficker requests. The boy complies and people in the room cheer.
“Take off your pants.” The boy complies. Again, everyone seems pleased. It seems like a game.
The traffickers take pictures of him, and the boy may be too young to realize anything is wrong. The traffickers reward him with food, chocolates, and approval.
After an hour or so, he’s returned to the parents, who get the cash that was promised. Everyone is pleased.
For the moment.
However, in the next few nights, methamphetamines enter the picture, Fabe explains. The boy is drugged and then asked to perform sexual acts. When he’s returned to his parents, he has no memory of what he’s been doing. In a matter of days, the child becomes addicted.
Initially, the traffickers gave him the meth. But soon, they require that he pays for it by doing whatever the trafficker asks.
The situation may continue for years and, meanwhile, the boy's parents are complicit. They want the money and may not fully comprehend just what is going on. By the time the boy is in his teens, he may end up with a criminal network that sends him to other countries, such as, for example, Thailand, Syria, the U.A.R., or the U.S.
The criminal networks can traffic him internationally because they know how to bribe the immigration officials. A bribed official will collude with the host country to give the young addict a work visa.
Years later, when the young man is no longer useful to the traffickers, they’ll abandon him. He’s now an addict with no education and virtually no ability to function as a productive member of society.
As Fabe tells it, “Most likely he’ll carry out crimes to fund his addiction.” That’s a common outcome for the young boy whose parents were gulled into having their son trafficked.
A Better Outcome Is Possible
An NGO, working with law enforcement, could rescue the boy. He could undergo drug rehabilitation, get an education, receive job training and job placement, and he could become a high-functioning member of society. The Philippines has increasingly robust NGOs that provide exactly such services.
The Role of Law Enforcement
Fabe is aiming for more than that. With the support of the government, she and colleagues are working to find, arrest, prosecute, and jail the traffickers.
When one trafficking ring is shut down and its members jailed, hundreds of children will never be trafficked in the first place. By some estimates, jailing one trafficker for life can prevent as many as 100 people from being trafficked.
The Philippine government wants to prevent the trafficking in the first place. They’ve increased the budget for training members of law enforcement in this important work, and they’re giving prosecutors the high-tech tools that can help them do their job more effectively.
“We need the criminals to face the bar of justice,” says Fabe. “Effective law enforcement is playing an ever-more-important role in deterring this crime.”