Did you know that among the estimated 10 million Filipinos working abroad, a significant number of these migrant workers are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor? This was according to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 created by the US Department of State which cites the Philippines as a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.
Traffickers, typically in partnership with small local networks, engage in unscrupulous recruitment practices that leave migrant workers vulnerable to trafficking, such as charging excessive fees and confiscating identity documents. Traffickers use email and social media to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work. Illicit recruiters use student, intern, and exchange program visas to circumvent the Philippine government and destination countries’ regulatory frameworks for foreign workers.
Many victims experience physical and sexual abuse, threats, inhumane living conditions, non-payment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents.
Its hard to accept that this reality now used to be how our parents used to scare us whenever we would disobey them.
I'm sure my older readers could relate to how our parents and grandparents would tell us not to go out of the house often because there was a man who would kidnap small children, place them inside his sack and sell them to strangers.But when news broke out that children were indeed being kidnapped and being sold for their organs or even as sex slaves, here and abroad, what used to be just scare tactics became all too real and made parents even nervous.
What's even scarier nowadays, is that sometimes its even relatives and parents of these young kids that subject them to these kinds of abuse for profit using these kids for cybersex shows which apparently attract a lot of foreign clients.
Remember the Australian who got caught operating a sex den or that man Arraz who was convicted recently for making young girls as sex slaves?Women and children from indigenous families and remote areas of the Philippines are most vulnerable to sex trafficking and some are vulnerable to domestic servitude and other forms of forced labor.
So I was really moved by the stories shared by Cecilia Oebanda-Flores, founder and president of the Visayan Forum Foundation.
Since she put up the foundation, Cecilia has helped more than 12,000 people escape the horrors of human trafficking.
“I decided to establish the forum because I wanted to continue fighting against injustice in the Philippines. I carried on with the vision and hope of giving women the opportunity to regain their life back. It has become my motivation in every rescue work we do. The rehabilitation and restoration of survivors is my driving force. We want abused sex workers to rediscover their life with a rekindled heart to dream again,” she said in one of her interviews.
For her efforts, Cecilia has received numerous awards and recognition, one of which is being one of the five finalists for the THE ONE Humanitarian award in 2012.Conceptualized and founded by David Harilela, a successful businessman and a past district governor of Rotary in Hong Kong, THE ONE has been recognizing and awarding these heroes since 2012.
This year, the respected award giving body has established THE ONE PHILIPPINES (TOP) Humanitarian Award (TOP), in the hopes of finding more people like Cecilia who work tirelessly everyday in serving her fellowmen.
The One Humanitarian Award, is launching its search for unsung heroes in the Philippines who are doing good for and within the community.
By recognizing these unsung heroes, TOP aims to further their good work with a monetary reward, at the same time boosting the spirit and morale of Philippine residents to serve and to encourage more selfless good work. This is in line with the Rotary motto of "Service above Self”.
“Every day we wake up to a world of news accentuating violence, pain and suffering. We need to draw our attention to the goodness of mankind that exists in the world. THE ONE was created with the intention to find and empower an individual who is the epitome of the compassion and selflessness that lives within us all,” says Harirela.
“TOP is looking for the next Mother Theresa, those individuals who give their lives, who work everyday to help and serve their fellowmen. A Hero. A Healer, An Angel. THE ONE will be called many names, but most of all THE ONE will inspire all of us and stand as a shining example for all to aspire to be.” Harirela told reporters at the launch event held last week at the Happy Garden Café in Makati.
The search will commence in August 2017 and end in January 2018. The Gala Awards Night is scheduled in May or June 2018, the special evening dedicated to amazing men and women one of whom will be the first TOP.
The winner of the first TOP will receive Php 1,500,000.00 and a trophy.
He or she will also automatically represent the Philippines in THE ONE International Awards and get a chance to win again. ‘Two runners-up will also be chosen and each will receive Php500,000.00. The award money must be used to further the winners’ humanitarian cause and service projects.Furthermore, TOP will donate, in the name of the nominator who nominates the winner, Php 150,000.00 to a Philippine Government-approved charitable organization or a Rotary club in the Philippines designated by this nominator.