MANILA (May 12) — Unsettled by fresh reports of illicitly recruited Filipino women trapped in prostitution dens in Ivory Coast and Malaysia, Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza is batting for new legislation that would enlarge the list of persons that may be held criminally liable for white slavery.
“We are definitely endorsing a measure that will not only expand the list of individuals that may be held accountable for white slavery, but also bump up the punishment for the felony,” Taliño-Mendoza said.
“Every person who profits from sexual enslavement, including the procurer here of the women tricked with false promises of decent and gainful employment and forced into prostitution, should be clearly held responsible for their acts of picking up the victims,” Taliño-Mendoza said.
It is not enough that the culprits answer for large-scale illegal recruitment, she said.
Taliño-Mendoza made the statement shortly after three Filipino women escaped from a white slavery operation in Ivory Coast with the help of the Philippine embassy in that French-speaking West African country.
The victims said there could be over a hundred other Filipino women forced to work as prostitutes in Ivory Coast, and who wanted to return home but were too scared to run away from their captors.
One of the victims said a Filipino recruiter lured her with a P150,000-a-month job as a restaurant cashier. She and two other women left Manila with tourist visas early last month with help from immigration agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
When they arrived in Ivory Coast, the victims were taken to a restaurant that fronted for prostitution and their travel papers were confiscated.
“Sexual enslavement is an extremely revolting felony. No less than the Rome Statute classifies the offense, when conducted wholesale, as a crime against humanity, and rightly so,” Taliño-Mendoza pointed out.
White slavery gangs and their local recruiters prey on Filipino women from impoverished families, including those in Mindanao, desperate for the break to work overseas as waitresses, domestic helpers or factory workers, she said.
A pending bill seeks to jack up to 14 to 20 years in prison the punishment for those convicted of profiting from prostitution. At present, the maximum penalty is only 12 years.
The bill also proposes to add the following acts as constituting white slavery: procuring a prostitute; inducing a person to be a client of a prostitute; using any influence or relationship to obtain a person as a prostitute; threatening or using violence to enlist a person as a prostitute; or giving financial or other benefits to a person with the intent to engage such person in prostitution.
Under the Revised Penal Code, a person may be held liable for white slavery if he or she engages in the business of, or profits by prostitution.
Besides Ivory Coast, similar cases involving Filipino women forced into prostitution in Malaysia were previously uncovered when some of the victims managed to flee and return home.