ARMM intensifies anti-human trafficking drive

November 10, 2012 12:23 am 

COTABATO CITY, Nov. 9 — The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) started on Friday a comprehensive campaign against human trafficking with the launching of the ARMM Council Against Trafficking (ACAT).

A set of actions to combat human trafficking was established in the region with the creation of ACAT which is headed by the Office of the ARMM Regional Governor and composed of different ARMM agencies and other government and non-government partners.

Lawyer Anwar Malang, ARMM executive secretary, said a strategic plan specifying actions to address different facets of human trafficking in the region has been adopted by the ACAT following the signing of the executive order formally creating it.

With ARMM Officer-in-Charge Governor Mujiv Hataman at the helm, Malang said the council has a firm mandate.

“Culpable individuals will face the full force of the law and victims will get the assistance they need,” he said.

The ACAT was formed in response to the high incidence of human trafficking in the ARMM.

In addition to being home to some of the most susceptible groups such as women and children in conflict, ARMM has under its jurisdiction a leading jump-off point to human traffickers – the islands of Tawi-Tawi, which long serves as backdoor entry to Sabah, Malaysia.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the national counterpart of ACAT, reported that as of August this year, 157 of the 850 repatriated Filipino migrant workers come from the ARMM.

Malang said the council will coordinate, monitor and oversee actions intended not only to stop human trafficking and prosecute violators but also help victims get rehabilitated and regain a healthy life.

Majority of victims in the ARMM come from the province of Maguindanao, ICAT records show.

According to Laiza Alamia, director of the Regional Commission on Human Rights, there is a correlation between war and displacement and trafficking.

Alamia said record shows that a number of displaced persons ended up as victims of human trafficking during the 2008 conflict in Maguindanao when they left their homes due to conflict and went to foreign lands to earn a living.

“Sadly, they ended up as victims of human trafficking,” she said.

She said traffickers take advantage of the vulnerabilities of people forced in evacuation camps given the deplorable conditions they face.

During the 1970s armed conflict and uprising of Moro rebels in southern Philippines, hundreds of thousands of Mindanaons migrated to Malaysia and nearby countries to avoid hostilities.

When the host governments decided to run after illegal aliens, many Filipinos who were illegal aliens were rounded up, jailed and beaten up.

Many of them decided to stay in Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo while some were sent back home and became jobless. (PNA)

LAM/NYP/EOFERNANDEZ/UTB

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