Issue of November 10, 2019
     
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DOLE, NBI team up on war against worst forms of child labor

Everything started with a milk tea. Faye B (not her real name) was stood up that day by her friends who were supposed to go window shopping with her. She was 14 years old then and her only escape from her problems at home was her love for fashion, but her friends didn’t show up.

A boy with a milk tea approached Faye B and gave her the milk tea from a secret admirer, eight years her senior. Four months later, her living nightmare began.

The man, who gave her the milk tea, little by little, earned her trust. He said that he also experienced Faye B’s life when he was younger. For the first time, she can identify herself with someone. She opened up to him, met frequently and everything went well. He treated her like a little sister. He asked her to stay in his house and she felt love and compassion. He gave her clothes, shoes and jewelry. She was treated like a princess.

The first three months were perfect until the day she was brought to the “apartment” where she was locked up in a room with other young girls. Every night they were sold to big-time clients. The beautiful dream has turned into her nightmare, the man who gave her milk tea just so happened to be her pimp.

Prostitution or pornography is one of the four broad categories of the worst forms of child labor as enumerated in Sec. 3 of Republic Act 9231. The other three are all forms of slavery or practices to slavery, including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; illegal or illicit activities, including the production and trafficking of dangerous drugs and volatile substances; and hazardous work or work that likely to be harmful to health, safety or morals of children.

Last Friday, Department of Labor and Employment-Cordillera Director Exequiel Ronie A. Guzman and National Bureau of Investigation-Cordillera Director Atty. Hector Eduard M. Geologo signed a memorandum of understanding for stronger alliance against the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and illegal recruitment.

DOLE is the lead agency in anti-illegal recruitment and anti-child labor activities while the Department of Justice is the lead agency in anti-human trafficking. The alliances will roll into one the existing task forces of DOLE and NBI for better complementation.

The alliance is also attributed to the eight-point labor and employment as the contribution of the DOLE to help achieve President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s overall vision.

Among others, the department will make sure that existing DOLE help desks/public assistance desks and quick reaction teams in all offices are capable of being the first line of action in implementing the 72-hour transaction cycle and in responding to complaints involving violation of laws and corruption in all agencies.

The alliance is geared towards sitting down and working together to come up with a plan of work to fully support the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and affording stronger protection for the working child and establish mechanisms of protecting and supporting trafficking victims especially women and children.

The DOLE Sagip Batang Manggagawa (SBM) is a quick action mechanism that aims to respond to cases of child labor in extremely abject conditions. It employs a quick action team for detecting, monitoring, and rescuing child laborers in hazardous and exploitative working conditions.

SBM focuses on the establishment of community-based mechanisms for detecting, monitoring, and reporting cases of most hazardous forms of child labor; conduct of surveillance and rescue operations and/or provision of other appropriate interventions for the relief of child laborers in extremely abject conditions through its enforcement functions under Article 128 of the Labor Code of the Philippines; provision of physical and psychological services to child labor victims; filing of administrative and criminal cases; and facilitation of the return of the child laborers to their parents, guardians or custodians.

Based on the latest report of the United States Department of Labor on the findings of child labor in 2018, children in the Philippines engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, and in armed conflict. Children also perform dangerous tasks in agriculture and gold mining.

Although the government made meaningful efforts in all relevant areas during the reporting period, the government did not adequately protect children engaged in drug trafficking from inappropriate incarceration, penalties, or physical harm. In addition, the enforcement of child labor laws remains challenging, especially due to the limited number of inspectors, lack of resources for inspections, and inspectors’ inability to assess penalties.

To date we are still faced with the challenge of enforcing and implementing policies and programs, especially in remote corners of the country where the problem mainly persists.

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