Strict enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws pushed

Leila De Lima

SENATOR Leila de Lima has called for concerted efforts from government, civil society organizations and the citizenry to address the scourge of human trafficking and modern-day slavery victimizing Filipinos like former Pinay helper “Nanay Fedelina.”

While grateful for the acquired freedom of Nanay Fedelina from living as family slave of a Filipino family for decades, De Lima said she remains deeply concerned over the worsening problem of human trafficking in the country.

“Lubos po tayong nagagalak na sa wakas, malaya na si Nanay Fedelina mula sa di-makatarungang pagtrato at pag-abuso sa kanyang karapatang pantao,” she said.    

“Subalit batid din natin na ang kwento ni Nanay Fedelina ay isang pilas lamang ng mapait at mas malawak na katotohanan: Marami pa tayong kababayan -- mga bata, babae at nakatatanda -- na biktima ng human trafficking na patuloy na sinasaktan, ikinukulong, inaabuso at sapilitang pinagtatrabaho,” she added.

Last June 12, Philippines Consul General Angelito S. Cruz (Los Angeles) featured Nanay Fedelina as the guest of honor during the 2019 Philippine Consulate Kalayaan Festival where she finally received her own Philippine passport.

A victim of modern slavery for 65 years since 1953 when she was 16 years old, Nanay Fedelina started as an unpaid household service worker in Manila who was physically and emotionally abused by her “owners.”

In early 1970s, she was brought to California, USA where her passport and ID were confiscated upon arrival. Isolated from her family, the family helper took care of her “owner’s” family across four generations, being the only person doing the groceries, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and folding them, among others.

The 82-year-old was reportedly rescued by authorities in 2018 after being alerted by a station nurse who suspected that Nanay Fedelina might be a victim of forced-labor when the former landed in the emergency room of a hospital in the US.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa lahat ng nagmalasakit at kumalinga sa kanya, kabilang na ang Pilipino Workers Center, Konsulado ng Pilipinas at mga awtoridad ng Estados Unidos,” said the former Justice secretary.

The lady senator from Bicol said the real challenge for the government and the Filipino populace moving forward is “how to palpably defeat the scourge of human trafficking” and save more victims of human trafficking and forced labor.

“Patuloy po sana tayong maging mapanuri, makisangkot at magtulungan tungo sa ganap na paglaya ng libo-libo pang Nanay Fedelina,” said De Lima.

As then Justice secretary, De Lima worked hard to upgrade the country’s status on the US Trafficking-in-Person (TIP) Report after consistently being on Tier 2 Watchlist from 2009 to 2010 under the Arroyo administration.

“During my tenure as Justice Secretary, I served as Chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) where I was blessed to have worked with deeply committed anti-human trafficking advocates and CSO partners,” she said.

As part of the parting legacy of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in 2016, the Philippines became the only Southeast Asian country to be upgraded and ranked under Tier 1 of the US State Department’s TIP Report.