CHICAGO (JGL) – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is not only going after international terrorists in the Philippines. The FBI is also going after Americans, who come to the Philippines, who are pedophiles — adults, who are sexually attracted to children.
The preponderance of Americans joining the child sex tourism trade in the Philippines has raised a red flag that a special FBI agent has been posted in Manila to track down these American sex predators.
At a workshop hosted by the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago on human trafficking held at the Rizal Center, FBI special agent in Chicago, Wesley Tagtmeyer said he is going after Americans preying on children under 18 years old.
“I have partnered with the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Immigration to ensure that Americans going to the Philippines are stopped in their tracks from sexually abusing children and/or producing images of child pornography or paying someone in the Philippines to produce these images that will be posted online so viewers will pay to play,” Tagtmeyer explained.
The Child Sex Tourism Initiative (CSTI) by the FBI is not limited to the Philippines. The CST Global Initiative net is also cast on Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru. The sole mission is to “identify, locate and prosecute American citizens traveling overseas and engaging in sex with children and/or producing images depicting the sexual abuse of children.”
Tagtmeyer said his investigations are based on a couple of American laws – 18 USC (U.S. Code) 2423, Transportation of Minors; and 18 USC 2252, Sexual Exploitation of Children. Violators of 18 USC 2423 will be “fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life” while offenders of USC 2252 will be “be fined under this title and imprisoned for not less than 15 years nor more than 40 years.”
For Filipino violators of these crimes, the bases of the Filipino authorities to go after Filipino sex abusers are Republic Act 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and RA 9775, the Anti-Child Pornography Act. Any person found guilty of qualified trafficking under Section 6 of RA 9208 shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than 2 million pesos (US$43,478.00) but not more than 5 million pesos (US$108,695).
If the offender is a corporation, partnership, association, club, establishment or any juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the owner, president, partner, manager, and/or any responsible officer who participated in the commission of the crime or who shall have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent its commission. The registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and license to operate of the erring agency, corporation, association, religious group, tour or travel agent, club or establishment, or any place of entertainment shall be cancelled and revoked permanently. The owner, president, partner or manager thereof shall not be allowed to operate similar establishments in a different name.
If the offender is a foreigner, he shall be immediately deported after serving his sentence and be barred permanently from entering the country.
At the workshop, General Charles Tucker, Executive Director of World Engagement Institute (WEI) of Chicago, said human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, occurs with the exploitation of “victim,” not the physical movement of “victim.” It comes under the following forms: Commercial Exploitation of Children (CSEC), 3%; Commercial Sex Trafficking, 38%; Forced Labor-Domestic Servitude, 28%; Forced Labor Hotel/Hospitality, 4%; Forced Labor-Peddling, 7%; Forced Labor –Restaurant Work, 1%; Forced Labor – Sweatshop/Garment, 3%; Forced Labor – Child/Elderly Care, 7%; Forced Labor-Construction, 1%; Forced Labor – Other, 6%; Non Commercial Sex Trafficking, 1%; Servile Marriage, 1%; Begging, Agriculture, Housekeeping and Other informal labor sectors.
TRAFFICKED PEOPLE DO NOT DISTINGUISH IF THEY ARE U.S. CITIZENS OR NOT
Trafficked people may be non-citizens, without legal status and with legal status. They may also be U.S. citizens from different backgrounds, race, class, gender, schooling, religion, culture. They come from all ages, men, women, children, although according to the U.S. Department of State, women and children are more vulnerable to trafficking than men.
Undocumented foreign-born survivors may not have identity documents; be in an unfamiliar country; isolated; may be unable to communicate due to language barrier or cultural issues; may have been taught by their trafficker to fear law enforcement officers or developed such a fear in home country. Often they do not self-identify as victims.
Some trafficking tactics include limited freedom of movement with trafficker: identification documents are confiscated; work long hours; little/no pay; inhuman living conditions; victims of physical and/or psychological abuse, and sexual assault.
They have limited freedom of movement without trafficker: fear of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and removal to home country; isolation; lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Among the protection for trafficking victims in the U.S. is Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), a law, which provides trafficked persons immigration relief thru “Continued Presence,” which grants them temporary legal status. This provides work authorization and access to public benefits thru issuance of T-visa, a non immigrant status with eligibility to apply for permanent residence. Applicant must prove that he or she is a victim of severe form of trafficking, defined as trafficking for sex or labor, among other elements, according to Atty. Audrey Gilliam.
Greg Wangerin, also of WEI, said the U.S. State Department has also identified the backdoor in Zamboanga and Malaysia that makes the Philippines both “a country source and also a secondary country of destinations of transients people of very wealthy ‘Chinoys’ (Chinese Filipinos) thru Zamboanga and move them to Eastern Europe or other country.”
Wangerin also noted the poor prosecution record of the Philippines against human traffickers, saying, “You got a better chance of winning the lottery and be struck by a lighting on your way home than you do than being prosecuted and convicted in the Philippines of trafficking. If you double, it triple it or quadruple it, it will still be a drop in the bucket. You can’t prosecute your way out, push poverty level and pull back abusive families; there are abuse factors to push people out.
According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), about 60,000 to 100,000 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation in the Philippines. Increases in human trafficking are common phenomena that occur after disasters like (super typhoon) Haiyan/Yolanda. “Large part of American servicemen are abusing women and there is a concern as America begins to pivot to Asia.”
The Philippine government investigated allegations that personnel working in Philippine embassies in the Middle East mistreated and re-victimized Filipina victims of domestic servitude by sexually harassing them, failing to pursue their legal cases, withholding back wages procured for them, re-trafficking them into domestic servitude, and coercing sexual acts in exchange for government protection services.
The government formed a task force to investigate the allegations, recalled 12 high-level officials, including ambassadors, to participate in the investigation, and filed administrative charges against three labor officials involved in the case. In December 2013, a former labor attaché in Jordan was found guilty of simple misconduct and was sentenced to four months suspension without pay, and in February 2014 a former labor attaché in Saudi Arabia was found guilty of simple neglect of duty and suspended for one month in service without pay.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) dismissed three counts of administrative charges against the third former labor attaché in Saudi Arabia, but found him guilty of an administrative charge of sexual harassment. Media reports stated that the task force determined that one government official and other embassy personnel in Kuwait violated the Philippines’ anti-trafficking law and recommended prosecution. To date, no criminal charges have been filed in these cases.
SUPPORTERS OF ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING PLEDGE SUPPORT: Deputy Consul General Romulo M. Victor Israel, Jr. (left) of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago headed by Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge administers the oath of office of resource speakers and participants to the workshop as they come together to pledge to support the drive against human trafficking in all its forms at the conclusion of the workshop. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)