Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) participated in the global observance of World Day Against Trafficking (June 30) by posting “selfies” bearing the hashtag #DiAko4Sale on Facebook as part of the joint social media campaign of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Pinoy Blog/OFW Awards (PEBA), two non-governmental organizations helping in the fight against modern-day slavery.
The #DiAko4Sale social media campaign coincided with this week’s official release of the US Trafficking in Persons 2015 Report which categorized the Philippines in the Tier 2, meaning while not fully compliant, it has made significant efforts to eliminate trafficking.
Susan Ople, president of the Ople Center, said social media has a huge role to play in raising public awareness and information about the crime of human trafficking among Filipino migrant workers. The 2015 US TIP Report also cited the role of social media in the recruitment and exploitation of victims.
“As an NGO, we receive several cases involving trafficked overseas workers via Facebook and Twitter. The use of social media has become the norm, rather than the exception, when it comes to handling urgent OFW cases, particularly those involving maltreatment and sexual exploitation,” she said.
Ople pointed out that the Center and PEBA have decided to team up to promote awareness about human trafficking through social media since human trafficking syndicates and illegal recruiters now use it to recruit its victims.
“Once a recruiter only looks at an OFW as a commodity to be sold, not as a parent, sibling or spouse, then all moral values are forsaken in exchange for profit. Human trafficking takes place when money prevails over decency and moral values,” said Kenji Solis, founder of PEBA and a Saudi-based chemist.
In its 2015 annual report, the US State Department cited online illegal recruitment in the Philippines as a particular area of concern. “Traffickers, typically in partnership with small local networks, engage in recruitment practices that leave migrant workers vulnerable to trafficking, such as charging excessive fees and confiscating identification documents. Traffickers also use email and social media to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work.”
According to the TIP report, the Philippines did not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but has made significant efforts to do so. According to Ople, the Tier 2 rating for the Philippines was expected, and meant that ongoing efforts to fight trafficking remain steadfast and earnest.
However, the Ople Center stressed the need for government to strengthen its anti-trafficking campaign for overseas workers, citing continuous reports of maltreatment and forced labor trafficking of OFWs particularly in the Middle East.
Based on the US TIP Report, the government has so far convicted 54 traffickers even as it took steps to expedite prosecutions and exerted efforts to prevent trafficking of migrant workers through training and awareness campaigns for government officials, prospective employees, and the general public.
Many OFWs in different parts of the country have embraced the fight against human trafficking as a personal cause.
Gemmalyn Comiso, a caregiver based in Taipei, uploaded this selfie in commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking with the caption: “#DiAko4Sale because no amount can match my value as a person.”
Red Bual, a Filipino community leader and leader of Patnubay Online, based in Saudi Arabia came out with an elaborate selfie to show his support to global efforts to end slavery:
Katherine Millares, a Household Service Worker based in Kuwait, uploaded a selfie with the caption, “#DiAko4Sale because I can find decent work to earn money.”
Other selfies of OFWs as part of the World Day Against Trafficking can be found via: www.facebook.com/blasoplepolicycenter. Both the Ople Center and PEBA said it will continue to boost its social media campaign through partnerships with media and various government agencies particularly the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). ###