Baguio City – Tala is a 15-year-old lass from an island community that is part of a major fishing ground in the Philippines. Her father is a fisherman and her mother is a fish vendor. The family consists of six other siblings with Tala being the eldest. Wanting to earn money as additional support to defray family finances and to augment her parents’ meager income to buy food and basic needs, she accepted the invitation of her childhood friend “Julia” who works in the Big City.

Tala accepted the offer as she was promised a high paying position as a hotel attendant. She dreamed of building a comfortable home for her family so she convinced her parents to agree.

Julia promised to look after Tala. They were joined by five other girls from the island and the group travelled to the Big City.
Julia’s boss took care of the girls’ living expenses including food and lodging even new clothing, and fancy jewelries.

Little did they know that they were about to land on the hands of illegal recruiters, and worse, traffickers.

Upon arrival in the Big City, Tala and the other girls were made to work as “guest relations officers” in a nightclub not as hotel attendants as promised.

Tala lived in an apartment where 10 other young girls were residing. Although they were not locked away, it was very difficult for Tala to leave because another girl or pimp always monitored her.

Tala was told she owed a large amount of money for the expenses, food, lodging, new clothing, and fancy jewelries and that she was not to leave until she paid the money. She was also threatened by her friend Julia that she will expose her to their community as a prostitute if she was to leave the club.

Tala managed to escape through the help of a customer who took pity on her. She was assisted in filing a trafficking case. She and her family were provided with case management, counseling, medical and psychological assistance to support her come through the traumatic incident. A strong young woman, she is hopeful that the case she filed in the court will prosper.

Today, Tala is enrolled in a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-accredited institution where she is taking up Hotel and Restaurant Services.

Last Thursday, the Regional Committee on Anti-Trafficking, Anti-Child Pornography and Violence against Women and their Children (RCAT-ACP-VAWC) convened for the 2nd quarter meeting at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary’s Cottage.

The gathering was presided by DSWD Regional Director Janet Armas. The representatives of the RCAT-ACP-VAWC member agencies renewed their continuous commitment to combat human trafficking, child pornography, and exploitation of women and children. There are also concerns on sexual and labor exploitation and cyber crimes that involve women and girls as victims that needed to be addressed.

Trafficking in persons is a crime against humanity.

Considered as “modern-day slavery,” trafficking refers to the recruitment, obtaining, hiring, providing, offering, transportation, transfer, maintaining, harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat, or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.

Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, adoption or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation or when the adoption is induced by any form of consideration for exploitative purposes is also considered trafficking in persons.

Department of Justice Prosecutor Ruth Bernabe, head of the Cordillera Anti-Trafficking Task Force, reported that there are five trafficking convictions in Baguio City and two in Benguet. Thanks to Bernardo Cadaon, Jr., head secretariat of the RCAT-ACP-VAWC, who painstakingly took time in following up reports, data, referrals and technical support in addressing issues on management of trafficking cases, VAWC, and child pornography.

RCAT-ACP-VAWC member agencies are DSWD, DOJ, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Labor and Employment, National Bureau of Investigation, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Tourism, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Telecommunications Commission, Philippine Information Agency, Commission on Human Rights, Tesda, Commission on Population, Civil Service Commission, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Bureau of Immigration, Professional Regulation Commission, Philippine Statistics Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and private partners Save Our Street Children Foundation Inc., Saint Louis University Sunflower Children’s Center, and Igorota Foundation.

Human trafficking is a violation of human dignity, it is a form of modern-day slavery, and it is a crime. It comes in many forms: domestic slavery, mail order bride, sale of human parts, sex slavery and pornography, child labor and children in armed conflict.

Human trafficking cases may now be reported by call or text through the Anti-Human Trafficking Action Line 1343 or call 02 1343 if outside of Metro Manila or email at

END/Patrick T Rillorta