Selective and sporadic-A A +A
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
PARDON if I frown on raids against supposed prostitution dens or bars involved in the trafficking of women. I have long observed that the conduct of raids, whether done solely by law enforcers or by them in tandem with non-government organizations, has always been sporadic and selective. Raids have still to make a dent on the thriving prostitution business in Cebu.
Two establishments, Pussycat Bar and Club Temptation along Gen. Maxilom Ave., were raided last Saturday by the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) 7, resulting in the “rescue” of 43 women, some of them minors. I have to place the word “rescue” in quotation marks because it does not seem to apply to most of the women.
Those women, especially the adults, were never enslaved. They weren’t chained or locked up in rooms by burly men, their movements restricted so they won’t escape. They were, more properly, workers, of the bars. I don’t even think they wanted law enforcers to “rescue” them.
As is always the case in such raids, focus was on the women and their alleged pimps during and after the raid. They were herded to the police station last Saturday and to the prosecutor’s office the other day, their number attracting attention. Meanwhile, the owners of the bars were never “herded.” They did not go through what the women experienced.
Six alleged pimps and supposed Pussycat Bar owners Matthew Gerald Davies, an American, and Robert Andrew Walton, an Australian national, were charged with human trafficking before the Cebu City Prosecutors Office. Their lawyer, Alex Tolentino, asked why neighboring bars--or for that matter similar establishments in Cebu—-were not raided.
It could be that last Saturday’s operation was the first in a series of raids on prostitution dens masquerading as bars. Or it could be that the police were really selective for reasons we can only guess.
We will know in the coming days if this is the start of a determined campaign against human trafficking or merely for compliance or for more sinister reasons. If everything calms down after this, then the police and other authorities are acting true to form.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is no stranger to establishments that have made Cebu City’s night life “exciting.” He therefore knows what other people of similar bent know: that bars that “hire victims of trafficking” do operate in his city. It’s not only Pussycat Bar and club Temptation, he also knows that.
I was therefore amused by his professed innocence when he reacted to the raids on the two bars along Gen. Maxilom Ave. “This will now become a challenge,” he said. “Nganong wala man ni makit-i?”
Okay, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he does not really know why bars with questionable activities are being allowed to operate in his city. I even hope that the seeming determination to close erring establishments was not for show.
He had promised to call the Cebu City Inter-Agency Council, which incidentally is headed by Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) Councilor Lea Japson, the City Anti-Indecency Board and the Liquor Licensing Commission for a meeting. Can this be the start of an honest and all-out campaign against human trafficking in the city?
It’s still too early to say. Whether those “vows” will translate into meaningful action remains to be seen. But the mayor and the police, if they are honest in their intentions, are on the right track. Indeed, this is one problem that cannot be solved by one unit of government acting alone and without a long-term and all-encompassing plan of action.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 25, 2013.