Passionate people making a difference in Davao City
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ON LOCATION IN DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES. (ANS) -- Close to 30 pairs of young eyes were focused on speaker Jeremiah Gubat as he talked about sexual abuse.
Jeremiah Gubat, back row 6th from left
The youngsters were all part of Compassion International's Leadership Development Program, which takes youngsters living in impoverished environments and by regular meetings, medical care, excursions and more gives them opportunities they would never otherwise experience.
The session with Gubat took place at Isla Reta on Samal Island after lunch, just after participants had finished cooking their own meal.
Gubat began the session with prayer and a Bible reading. He then launched right into the horrors of sexual abuse. Judging by their focus and intense concentration, everyone had a real interest in what he was saying.
Gubat, 56, a former Compassion staff member, now works with Global Impact in Davao City. He speaks many times wherever he can, warning whoever will listen about the dangers of sex trafficking, prostitution, forced labor, slavery and more. It's a problem in Davao, as well as other areas in the Philippines.
Gubat said that prostitution and other forms of trafficking increase when there's a disaster . Basically, he said, "Because people have no other way of making an income."
There's also slavery or forced labor. Individuals desperate for a small amount of money just to buy food are exploited by unscrupulous individuals who offer a loan -"instant money." When unable to pay back the funds they've borrowed, they're forced into what amounts to slavery.
Gubat, a compassionate and articulate individual, said his passion is to educate people about all sorts of human trafficking, and through education, help give them the tools to end these atrocities.
"We're trying to stop the flow," he said.
And why should people care? Gubat didn't hesitate when he answered. "Because if they don't," he said, "their families may become victims of trafficking."
But what about when there's no education? I found out from Major Abraham Mapangal, the director of Davao City Salvation Army's Anti-Human Trafficking Program. He's a softly spoken, but kind and impassioned individual.
Davao City, he said, is a hub for human t raffickers. They lure victims from remote areas and bring them to the city. They often entice parents of victims by asking them if they have a daughter who needs a good job such as an executive secretary. In return, they're offered about $120.00.
Parents routinely fall for the ruse, because many of them are desperate for money, illiterate and not used to smooth talking con artists.
Mapangal said mom and dad try to convince the daughter that this is a golden opportunity which will really help the family. They have no idea, because the recruiters are good liars, what they are consigning their daughters to. In addition, the youngsters are often excited initially to taste life in the big city.
When the girls reach Davao City, they are spirited away to an unknown place out of possible police surveillance unless there has been a prior tip.
The next day, the girls are told to get ready for their potential employer. A man comes to the center and takes them a ,hotel, where they are told that they'll start th eir "job." At this point, they still have no idea. They just follow instructions.
The man tells the girls that he has paid for them, so "you have to do what I want you to do."
A client then shows up to the room to have sex. Mangapal emphasized that there is, quite literally, no place to go and the girls have to submit.
Mapangal told me the story of a couple of girls who have survived.
Maria, 16, (not her real name) was recruited by a woman. She was initially brought to Tagum City, an hour's drive from Davao, and ended up becoming a nude dancer. She had been told she would work as a waitress. She stayed there for six months.
During her time there, among other horrors, she was raped by one of the bosses. One of her friends managed to get in touch with Maria's parents and tell them that their daughter was a nude dancer and had been raped. The parents called the police and the club ended up getting raided.
Maria is now undergoing rehabilitation.
Mapangal said she has returned to school, b ut not surprisingly is suffering post traumatic stress from her nightmare.
Lorisa, 15 (not her real name), was recruited from the provinces (very rural areas of the Philippines) when she was 12. The family was abandoned by the father when they were young. Mom was in jail for shoplifting at an area mall. The eldest sister was raped and killed. Lorisa was living with her second eldest sister.
Lorisa was recruited to be a house maid, and given to a Muslim family in Davao. However, what that turned out to be was slave labor. While with the family, she had no salary, wasn't fed properly, had no time off, and was forced to "live" in a stock room. She was also beaten when her employers were displeased with her.
Lorisa stayed there for three years, but eventually ran away and went to the police station and turned her employers in. Mapangal said she was an exception to the rule, and very brave. Many girls don't do that.
Lorisa has been in rehab for two weeks.
Mapangal said she has gained weight, is now beginning to smile, and feels she belongs to a family. "Everyone loves her so much," he said.
Mapangal needs more help. "I want people to help us reach out to more victims to get them out from that ordeal. Many victims are not given enough attention, and we can increase our services if people give us more money. More resources will also help us to reach out to parents for education about this issue."
Mapangal added, "It makes me smile when people are touched by the need, and by their support help make this program even more effective than it is, so we can reach out to other survivors of human trafficking. With more support, we'll even be able to start a skills training center, where they can learn both vocational and basic computer skills."
In a June 2014 article for the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Carina Cayon reported that Rolando Lopez, former special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and founder of Orphan Secure, said globally syndicated organized crimes operate a lucrative business ou t of victimizing women and children into prostitution and unpaid forced labor.
He said that human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in the black market or underground economy, and that 85 percent of all human trafficking activities are for sexual exploitation.
"Yearly, 1.2 million children are forced into prostitution globally," the PIA reported Lopez said, adding that they expect human trafficking to be number one in the black market in the next couple of years.