Netherlands officials want stronger ties with Cebu

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


OFFICIALS from the Netherlands visited Cebu last Thursday to learn about efforts to stamp out human trafficking in the island and to establish ties with local authorities.

The Dutch delegation, led by Herman Bolhaar, chair of the Netherlands’ Task Force on Human Trafficking, went to Barangay Ibabao, Cordova town where raids against cybersex hubs have been conducted for the past few years.

Town officials led by Mayor Adelino Sitoy briefed the group about the measures taken by the town to address cyberpornography, including the policy requiring money transfer services.

Bolhaar, in a press conference at the Marco Polo Hotel, stressed the importance of cooperation among countries to stop human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry.

“We need partnership throughout the world,” he said, adding that exchange of information among countries is necessary in investigating international trafficking crimes.

The Dutch delegation, guided by the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (Iacat), also met with officials of the Mactan Cebu Airport Task Force against Trafficking and the Bureau of Immigration.

Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III, officer-in-charge of Iacat, said the Philippines has an international obligation to criminalize human trafficking as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.

In 2003, the country passed Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Last Wednesday, Paras said, the Iacat also met with a Japanese delegation interested
in learning from the Philippines’s experience in combatting trafficking.

Paras said the Iacat is considering creating a core group composed of representatives from different embassies that will meet regularly, to establish better coordination.

Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings and sexual violence against children in Netherlands, lauded the efforts taken by Cordova officials to fight cyberpornography.

“We were impressed,” she said, adding she was struck by the policy requiring money transfer services in the town to report suspicious transactions and submit a monthly report of their transactions.

Operators of cyberporn dens in Cordova, mostly parents, compel minors to pose naked before webcam for the viewing of pedophiles, mostly foreigners.

Vermeulen said the Netherlands and the Philippines should work together, having mutual interests in stopping human trafficking.

Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane, in a separate interview, lamented that labeling Cordova as “cybersex capital” is inaccurate, with only two cases of anti-child cyberpornography in the town filed in court so far.

On the prosecution of trafficking suspects, Gubalane said there are strong evidence against the suspects in cases pending in court.

At least 18 persons have been convicted of human trafficking in Cebu since 2003.

The latest conviction involved a 41-year-old woman who allegedly attempted to bring three minors to Bulacan Province for prostitution.

Regional Trial Court Branch 27 Judge Toribio Quiwag sentenced Rebecca Estrada to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P3 million.

Her conviction came less than two months after two women were also sentenced to life imprisonment in a court in Cebu City for their alleged involvement in human trafficking.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 15, 2014.

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