Human Trafficking in the Philippines is one of the main focuses of the new Philippine President Aquino.

Sometimes  expats  don’t see how a situation is trafficking.  They will say something like

I’m not forcing or tricking these girls to do anything.  They just want to earn some money.  I am helping them out.

That situation is covered in the Anti Human Trafficking Act of 2003  or RA 9208 in at least a couple of places.  Once in definitions:

(a) Trafficking in Persons – refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.

The act later defines what sexual exploitation is:

(f) Sexual Exploitation – refers to participation by a person in prostitution or the production of pornographic materials as a result of being subjected to a threat, deception, coercion, abduction, force, abuse of authority, debt bondage, fraud or through abuse of a victim’s vulnerability.

That clause, “through abuse of a victim’s vulnerability” is very broad.   Poverty in relation to your status is a huge inducement and I think open to the idea that the victim was vulnerable to many Filipina.   Notice the word “or.”  That is crucial.  It doesn’t say if or and there was lying.  If you put a Filipino into a sexual situation and give them money you are putting yourself at huge risk.

Prostitution is also covered in the act and involves much lower penalties for the offender, especially for a first time

Kids on The Beach in Cebu Philippines

Kids Having Fun At the Beech

offender.  They get a little stiffer on a second conviction.  And there is some questions about when the police can seize assets involved and from whom.


Human trafficking is not limited to slavery.  Nor does it require someone be transported any place.  It doesn’t have to involve fraud or trickery but it can include any of those.

If there are three or more people involved in the transaction or the victim is a minor, the act becomes qualified human trafficking and the penalty for that is life.

Offering sexual tourism is another way to run afoul of this law.   My reading of other laws is that only Filipino can offer tourism services in the first place.  There are various business in the Philippines that can only be offered by Filipino.  Real Estate transactions are the first ones that come to mind.   You really should consult a lawyer if you want to go into any business here. Some expats have run afoul of the law by putting the business in wife or girlfriends name.  Generally, if you are here on a tourist visa, you cannot enter into business.  But now I’m headed into another topic.

This is not my favorite topic to write about but it is an important topic.  If you’re going to live in the Philippines you must be aware of this law.  It is a dry read but if you’d like to read the law, you can download it here.  It is in zipped format.

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Filed under: Expats in the PhilippinesLiving In The PhilippinesPhilippines Law

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