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NGO Summit

An advocacy is best shared with like-minded people because the burden becomes lighter when distributed to as many shoulders as possible. This observation was solidly reinforced during the recent NGO Summit Against Human Trafficking that was hosted by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center through a project made possible by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the International Justice Mission.

Susan V. OpleThe two-day summit had at least 40 participants representing various non-government organizations that deal with or are helping out our overseas Filipino workers. Though the topics were serious and the workshops a bit tedious, the participants were generous with both time and ideas. This is what makes working in and alongside civil society groups rewarding: they don’t set boundaries out of fear or sometimes, even logic. The desire to aspire and dream for the better good is palpable.

Our resource persons were topnotch: Trafficking in Persons Hero Awardee Atty. Darlene Pajarito gave a candid presentation outlining the gains and challenges in the government’s fight against trafficking, while POEA Director and former ILO consultant Atty. Robert Larga taught us about the elements that would distinguish a human trafficking case from an illegal recruitment case. Chief State Counsel and acting justice undersecretary Ricardo Paras III extolled the work of the participants in the NGO Summit and promised to look into various concerns of overseas Filipino workers in relation to human trafficking.

An hour was not enough for a thorough discussion on the expanded anti-trafficking law that took effect in March 2013. Prosecutor Pajarito explained the law’s various provisions so well, but the shortness of time left quite a few more unanswered questions. It seemed to me that there is a need to intensify the information campaign about the provisions of the expanded anti-trafficking law so that more civil society groups and community leaders can contribute to its enforcement.

As a result of the workshops that followed the presentations of our resource persons, the NGOs present in the summit resolved to organize themselves into a coalition that would help monitor the implementation of the law and work in tandem with IACAT in the fight against human trafficking. A valid suggestion was for the creation of an online registry where all NGOs that have services for trafficked victims can be easily found. This is a simple project that we have all decided to work on.

Dear Reader, the fight against human trafficking requires the cooperation of everyone. If you are interested in joining our campaign, call us up at 833-5337 or write to blasoplecenter@gmail.com. Do you have information about possible human trafficking and illegal recruitment cases? Or perhaps you wish to organize a seminar of your own to help promote public awareness about human trafficking? If yes, write to me directly using the e-mail at the end of this article.

This writer and OFW advocate would like to thank the following groups for sending participants to our NGO Summit Against Human Trafficking for the OFW Sector: OFW Family Club, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino (KAMPI), Alliance of Progressive Labor/MARINO, Scalabrini Migrant Center, International Justice Mission, Advocates of OFWs and Family Welfare, Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc (MMCEAI), Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay (GABAY), CBCP Episcopal Council for Migrants and Itinerants (ECMI-CBCP), Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Kalilintad Development Foundation, Inc (KDFI), Visayan Forum Foundation, LBS Recruitment Solutions, Ople Center-TULAY Group, Public Sector Linkages (PSLink), Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) and the Villar Foundation.

Let me give a special shout out to the leadership and entire staff of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and to our workshop facilitators, Atty Patty Arroyo, Sheryl Loseno, and Jerome Alcantara. Job well done!

(Send your comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople)