January 21, 2020
Executive Secretary Abudlraof Macacua of the Bangsamoro autonomous government and former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center signed an agreement on the creation of a special task force to prevent the trafficking of minors and women as domestic workers overseas.
The signing took place at Bajau Hall in the OCM Building, Bangsamoro Compound in Cotabato City this morning (Tuesday January 21). It came after a series of meetings and workshops on how best to address the problem of human trafficking involving overseas job applicants from the BARMM territory.
Deputy executive director Atty. Yvette Coronel of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Secretariat and Attorney-General Sha Elija Dumama-Alba witnessed the signing while deputy executive secretary Dong Acusain delivered the welcome remarks.
“Even without any signed agreement, the Ople Center is already assisting several victims from the BARMM region including a distressed OFW illegally recruited from Cotabato City as a domestic worker in Turkey and a 15 year-old girl who was deployed to Saudi Arabia by a licensed recruitment agency. The new partnership seeks to creat a special task force in the BARMM territory that would intensify the campaign against human traffickers,” Susan Ople said.
Under the Memorandum of Agreement, the BARMM OFW Task Force will handle human trafficking cases involving OFWs to include the build-up and filing of cases against the perpetrators. It will also formulate a policy framework on how the BARMM government can fight modern slavery while providing aftercare and legal services to its victims.
For its part, the Ople Center will provide capacity-building and training programs to BARMM personnel and will assist OFWs from the region who are in dire need of repatriation assistance.
Both parties agreed to put up a joint case monitoring system and embark on a grassroots information campaign against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
“This new partnership comes at a time of high risks to our overseas workers with the total deployment ban in Kuwait and an Alert Level 4 in Iraq, as well as rising tensions across the Middle East. We need to accelerate the formation and work of the Bangsamoro anti-trafficking task force because most of the victims do come from Muslim Mindanao,” Ople said.
Out of the more than 2 million OFWs in the Middle East, at least 60% are employed as domestic workers. “Unfortunately, we continue to handle cases involving minors and women from BARMM areas who were treated as slaves abroad,” she said.”