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Cablegate: Anti-Trafficking Efforts in Mindanao: Halfway

VZCZCXYZ0004
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #0333/01 0380648
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 070648Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9682
INFO RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAWJB/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 000333

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR G/TIP, DRL, AND EAP/MTS
JUSTICE FOR OPDAT, ICITAP AND CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
PASS TO USAID FOR ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN RP
SUBJECT: ANTI-TRAFFICKING EFFORTS IN MINDANAO: HALFWAY
HOUSE, TIP CONVICTION

REF: A. 07 MANILA 2459 (TIP CONVICTION IN CEBU)
B. 07 MANILA 2405 (AMBASSADOR BREAKS GROUND ON TWO
TIP SHELTERS)
C. 07 MANILA 1043 (NEW TIP CONVICTION IN ZAMBOANGA)

1. SUMMARY: This trafficking in persons (TIP) update includes
two significant milestones in the anti-trafficking efforts in
Mindanao. On January 11, the Ambassador joined NGO and
government partners to cut the ribbon for a newly constructed
halfway house for trafficking victims at the Zamboanga port,
a historic passageway for migrant workers to and from the
Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia and a hot spot for
trafficking. While Zamboanga City in western Mindanao has
been a leader in TIP prosecutions, with two convictions so
far, Davao City in eastern Mindanao registered its first TIP
conviction in July. END SUMMARY.

-----------------------------------------
Expanding Protection Efforts to Zamboanga
-----------------------------------------

2. On January 11, the Ambassador joined Visayan Forum
Foundation (VFF) Executive Director Cecilia Flores-Oebanda
and Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat to inaugurate a newly
constructed halfway house for trafficking victims at the
Zamboanga International Seaport in western Mindanao. This
halfway house, the fifth to be constructed under a
partnership between VFF and the Philippine Ports Authority,
will provide temporary shelter and counseling services to
victims and potential victims of trafficking who are
intercepted by port employees, law enforcement officers, or
shipping operators. VFF will also conduct extensive training
with its port and law enforcement partners on how to identify
and intercept victims and traffickers aboard vessels. The
Zamboanga port is considered the Philippines' backdoor to
Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia, with regular ferries to the
southernmost islands of the Sulu Archipelago, as well as to
Sandakan, Malaysia.

3. Media attendance at the event was extensive, leading to
prominent articles in regional and national newspapers,
featuring the Ambassador's remarks and detailing U.S.
assistance to combat trafficking in the Philippines.
Multiple grants from USAID and the State Department's Office
to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons have supported
the outreach efforts of VFF at its shelters. A visiting
Senate staff delegation from the Appropriations Subcommittee
on Foreign Operations, led by Paul Grove, also participated
in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

4. The Ambassador praised the Zamboanga City government and
the local civil society groups for their relentless
commitment to combat TIP in Mindanao. Ongoing collaborative
efforts between government and NGOs in Zamboanga led to the
country's first conviction under the anti-TIP law in December
2005. In March 2007, a Zamboanga City court handed down
another conviction against a member of a criminal syndicate
who trafficked victims to a brothel in Sandakan, Malaysia
(ref C). The judge and prosecutors in these two cases
attended the January 11 ceremony to show their support for
victim protection efforts at the Zamboanga port.

5. The partnership between the Philippine Ports Authority and
VFF dates back to 1999 when the authority agreed to construct
VFF's first halfway house at Manila's North Harbor. Since
this first successful collaboration, the authority has built
additional shelters at the ports of Davao, Batangas,
Sorsogon, and most recently, Zamboanga. The shelters have
become centers for information sharing and advocacy against
TIP, as well as places of temporary sanctuary for thousands
of victims intercepted each year. Two additional shelters
are expected to open by the summer at the ports in Iloilo in
the western Visayas and in Surigao in northeastern Mindanao.
The Manila International Airport Authority is also
constructing a VFF halfway house that will serve victims at
Manila's airport (ref B).

----------------------------
TIP Conviction in Davao City
----------------------------

6. Ongoing anti-TIP efforts by government and NGO partners
are leading to convictions of traffickers. On July 27, a
Davao City trial court judge sentenced a woman to life
imprisonment for conspiracy to traffic a minor for sexual

exploitation. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay a
fine of two million pesos (USD 50,000) and to pay the victim
10,000 pesos (USD 250) in restitution fines. This case was
the third trafficking conviction in 2007, following
convictions in Zamboanga City (ref C) and Cebu City (ref A).

7. In the Davao City case, the victim's aunt recruited the
child in August 2003 when the child was only 13 years old.
She was sexually exploited for more than two years before she
escaped from a brothel in October 2005. After her escape,
she immediately went to the police and filed charges against
the three perpetrators. Because the victim's family was
involved in her abuse, the Department of Social Welfare and
Development maintained custody of the child and provided
shelter and assistance to her throughout the investigation
and trial period. However, two of the three accused in this
case, including the aunt of the victim, remain at large.

8. Since the passage of the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons
Law, eight people have been convicted in five separate cases.
In 2007, police investigators, private prosecutors, and
victims themselves submitted 59 cases of alleged trafficking
in persons to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force on
Anti-Trafficking in Persons. DOJ prosecutors found
sufficient evidence to file charges in court in 29 of these
cases. Since 2003, DOJ has filed 161 cases of trafficking in
persons in court, but the majority of these cases continue to
drag on because of the overburdened Philippine judicial
system.


Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

KENNEY

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