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Prostitution in the Philippines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prostitution in the Philippines is illegal, although somewhat tolerated among society, with law
enforcement being rare with regards to sex workers. Penalties range up to life imprisonment for
those involved in trafficking, which is covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.[1]
Prostitution is often available through bars, karaoke bars (also known as KTVs), massage
parlors, brothels (also known as casa), street walkers, and escort services.[2]

In 2013, it was estimated that there were up to 500,000 prostitutes in the Philippines,[3] from a
population of roughly 97.5 million. Citing a 2005 study, Senator Pia S. Cayetano asserted in her
Anti-Prostitution Act (Senate Bill No. 2341 s.2010), that the number of people being exploited
in prostitution in the Philippines could be as high as 800,000.[4][5] The bill was reintroduced in
2013 as Senate Bill No. 3382,[6] and in 2015 as Senate Bill No. 2621.[7]

Prostitution in various regions

Prostitution caters to local customers and foreigners. Media attention tends to focus on those
areas catering to sex tourism, primarily through bars staffed by bargirls. Cities where there is a
high incidence of prostitution are Olongapo City, Angeles City, Legazpi City in Albay, Pasay City
and Subic Bay in Zambales,[8][not in citation given] with the customers usually foreign
businessmen from East Asian and Western nations.[8][9]

Prostitution in Olongapo City and Angeles City was highly prominent during the time of the U.S.
military in Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, respectively.[10][11] When Mount
Pinatubo, a volcano, erupted in 1991, it destroyed most of Clark Air Base and the United States
closed it down in 1992.

Some of the associated prostitution trade closed with it, but when the mayor of Manila, Alfredo
Lim, closed down the sex industry area of Ermita in Manila during his first term starting in 1992,
many of the businesses moved to Angeles, finding a new customer base among sex tourists.

Other tourist areas such as Cebu have also developed a high-profile prostitution industry.

Online dating sites have a large role to play in encouraging this trend.[13] Reasons

There is no one single reason for the widespread prevalence of prostitution in the Philippines.
Poverty is but one reason, as cultural factors and the attitude of people toward money and the
social acceptance of prostitution play a major role.[2]


Per the Philippine Statistics Authority,[14] Philippines has a poverty incidence of 24.9%. While
this figure has been decreasing over the past few years[timeframe?], this still is one of the
reasons why girls and their families turn to prostitution to enable the family to maintain a certain
level of lifestyle.[15] A large number of girls who come to Angeles tend to be provincial,
especially from Samar, Leyte and Visayas, having seen their friends live a better life because of
their job in the prostitution industry. A comparison, however, made with other countries which
have higher poverty statistics but do not have such rampant prostitution, reveals that poverty is
just one reason given, with the reason below ("Attitude toward money") being equally important.

Violence and coercion against prostitutes

Further information: Human trafficking in the Philippines

Women and children involved in prostitution are vulnerable to rape, murder, and AIDS as well as
other sexually transmitted diseases.[21]

Surveys of women working as masseuses indicated that 34 percent of them explained their
choice of work as necessary to support poor parents, 8% to support siblings, and 28% to
support husbands or boyfriends.[22] More than 20% said the job was well paid, but only 2% said
it was easy work, and only 2% claimed to enjoy the work.[22]

Over a third reported that they had been subject to violence or harassment, most commonly
from the police, but also from city officials and gangsters.[22]

According to a survey conducted by the International Labor Organization, prostitution is one of

the most alienating forms of labor.[22] Over 50% of the women surveyed in Philippine massage
parlors said they carried out their work with a heavy heart, and 20% said they were
conscience-stricken because they still considered sex with customers a sin.[22] Interviews with
Philippine bar girls revealed that more than half of them felt nothing when they had sex with a
client, and the remainder said the transactions saddened them.[22]

Partners Against Human Trafficking in the Philippines

Commitment by Visayan Forum Foundation

In 2008, The Visayan Forum Foundation committed to combat human trafficking in the
Philippines by developing island-wide, multi-sectorial action-plans for the various phases of their
Campaign Against Trafficking. This commitment identified and protected victims and potential
victims by providing immediate services in transit and destination areas, establishing non-
traditional partnerships, and working with the War Against Human Trafficking campaign to raise
awareness of human trafficking issues.
Economic growth in the Philippines is among the highest in Asia, with 5.9 percent in the second
quarter of 2012. Unfortunately though, the bulk of the financial benefits associated with this
growth continue to escape the majority of Filipinos living in poverty. According to the most recent
estimates from The World Bank, 26.5 percent of the Filipino population is living in poverty. This
high rate of economic disparity remains one of the largest factors driving many Filipinos into
human trafficking situations. Despite recent economic advancements, the Philippines continue
to be one of the largest source countries for sex trafficking and forced labor victims around the

Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, which involves the recruitment, transportation,
transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other forms of
coercion, for the purpose of exploitation according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Crime. According to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Filipino human trafficking
victims have been identified in over 37 countries across five continents. Absence of economic
opportunities in the Philippines, gender role socialization, and family dynamics make Filipinos
especially vulnerable to human trafficking crimes. However, reliable statistics on the number of
Filipino human trafficking victims are currently unavailable.

In analyzing the types of human trafficking crimes experienced by Filipino victims, we find that
false financial promises are often used to lure Filipino children, men, and women into dangerous
human trafficking situations in the Philippines and internationally. Within the country, sex tourists
come from Northeast Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America to engage in sexual activity
with children. Child prostitution in the Philippines primarily takes place in five types of places: 1)
casas, a term used to describe brothels; 2) bars with sex shows; 3) restaurants and karaoke
bars; 4) in the streets; and 5) in shopping malls. NGO organizations suggest that there may be
60,000 to 100,000 children forced into prostitution in the Philippines.

The economic disparity between rich and poor in the Philippines also facilitates the opportunity
for men to be trafficked abroad into situations involving forced labor or debt bondage in
factories, at construction sites, on fishing vessels, on agricultural plantations, and in the shipping
industry, according to the 2013 TIP Report. Women are even more likely to befall human
trafficking victimization, which most frequently involves domestic service or sexual slavery. In
recent years, an increasing number of Filipinos are being trafficked to countries in the Middle
East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.

Although the gross national income in the Philippines has doubled since 2004, it remains
relatively low compared to other countries, with $2,500 per capita in 2012. Hierarchical
trafficking organizations in and outside the Philippines take advantage of the lack of economic
opportunity within the region. These actors include investors, recruiters, transporters, corrupt
public officials or protectors, informers, guides and crew members, enforcers, supporting
personnel and specialists, debt collectors and moneymovers.

Currently, there are a number of laws and international treaties that attempt to address human
trafficking in the Philippines. For example, the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act outlines
penalties for human trafficking that are categorized by the U.S. State Department as being
sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as
rape. However, during 2012 only 227 cases were filed with the Department of Justice for
potential prosecution, which led to a mere 24 convictions of human traffickers in the Philippines,
a decrease from the 29 traffickers convicted during 2011. This data suggests that although the
Philippine government criminally prohibits sex and labor trafficking through its laws, the crime is
rarely successfully prosecuted. Some explanations for this trend of under enforcement include
lack of financial resources, informal case processing, lack of victim cooperation, time lapse
between charge and trial, and lack of jurisdictional familiarity with the new and changing
trafficking laws.

Over time, the Philippines have maintained a ranking of Tier 2 or Tier 2 Watch List on the State
Department scale. This ranking means that although the Philippines have not fully complied with
the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards, the country is making
significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance. However, for 2009 and 2010, the country
was on the Tier 2 Watch List. During those years, the U.S. State Department reported that
thenumber of victims of severe forms of trafficking was very significant or significantly
increasing; there was a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms
of human trafficking; and/or the determination that the Philippines was making significant efforts
to bring the country into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the
country to take additional future steps over the next year.

The Philippines continues to make improvements to their prosecution of human trafficking

cases, protection of human trafficking victims, and prevention of future human trafficking crimes.
Although the Philippine government only landed 24 convictions of human traffickers in 2012,
they used resources to assist 2,569 victims by providing skills training, shelter, medical services,
financial, and legal assistance. In that same year, at least 223 Filipino children were rescued
from the worst forms of child labor, including sex trafficking. Additionally, pre-employment
orientation seminars provided to Filipino overseas workers may have potentially prevented an
unknown number of international human trafficking victimizations involving Filipino citizens.

Despite the improvements to the rates of human trafficking prosecution, victim protection, and
potential crime prevention, it is important to understand that these statistics are not necessarily
significant or proportional to the countrys economic growth or the amount of money allocated to
combat human trafficking locally. The Office of the President of the Philippines has touted the
Philippine economic growth as outpacing its Southeast Asian Neighbors and far surpassing the
IMF growth forecast of 3.5 percent. However, the rate of poverty in the Philippines has
remained relatively consistent, hovering at or above 25 percent. Furthermore, there is little data
to suggest that the improvements to anti-trafficking efforts are proportional to the allocated
resources. For example, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) receives over $1
million per year to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies at the national, regional, and
provincial levels. Yet, these resources netted only 24 human trafficking convictions in 2012.

Ultimately, we know that economic disparity is a driving force toward human trafficking. Given
the recent economic growth in the Philippines, more research is warranted to evaluate the
efficacy and cost effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts.

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, (Republic Acts of the Philippines) R.A. No. 9208, is
a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2444 and House Bill No. 4432. It was enacted and passed by
Congress of the Philippines' Senate of the Philippines and House of Representatives of the
Philippines (12th Congress of the Philippines, 20012004) assembled on May 12, 2003 and
signed into law (List of Philippine laws) by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on May 26, 2003.
It institutes policies to eliminate and punish human trafficking, especially women and children,
establishing the necessary institutional mechanisms for the protection and support of trafficked
persons. It aims "to promote human dignity, protect the people from any threat of violence and
exploitation, and mitigate pressures for involuntary migration and servitude of persons, not only
to support trafficked persons but more importantly, to ensure their recovery, rehabilitation and
reintegration into the mainstream of society."[1]

R.A. 9208 made the Philippines one of the few Asian countries in Asia that have enacted an
anti-trafficking legislation. The law establishes an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking
(IACAT), first chaired by Raul M. Gonzalez, and composed of government agencies, non-
government organizations and other civic organizations for the effective formulation of a
comprehensive and integrated program to prevent and suppress the trafficking in persons.[2]
The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), PMRW member organization, and the
National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and the Coalition Against Trafficking in
Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) supported the successful passage of this law. This penal law
ACT NO 9208 - Anti-Trafficking Act," pursuant to the authority of IACAT under Sec. 29 of R.A.

The Philippines is a source country and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit
country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Many
victims exploited overseas and domestically experience physical and sexual abuse, threats,
inhumane living conditions, nonpayment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity
documents. An estimated 10 million Filipinos migrate abroad for work, and many are subjected
to sex trafficking and forced laborincluding through debt bondagein the fishing,
construction, education, nursing, shipping, and agricultural industries, as well as in domestic
work, janitorial service, and other hospitality-related jobs throughout the Middle East, Asia,
Europe, and North America. Traffickers, typically in partnership with small local networks,
engage in recruitment practices that leave migrant workers vulnerable to trafficking, such as
charging excessive fees and confiscating identification documents. Traffickers also use email
and social media to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work. Illicit recruiters use student,
intern, and exchange program visas to circumvent the Philippine government and destination
countries regulatory frameworks for foreign workers.

Forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women, and children within the country remains a
significant problem. Women and childrenmany from impoverished families, typhoon-stricken
communities, and conflict-affected areas in Mindanaoundocumented returnees, and internally
displaced persons are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in small
factories, and sex trafficking in Manila, Cebu, Angeles, and urbanized cities in Mindanao.
Trafficking also occurs in tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerto Galera, and
Surigao where there is a high demand for commercial sex acts. Men are subjected to forced
labor and debt bondage in agriculture, fishing, and maritime industries. The UN reports armed
militia groups operating in the Philippines, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the New
Peoples Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, continue
to recruit and use children, at times through force, for combat and noncombat roles. Child sex
trafficking remains a serious problem, typically aided by taxi drivers who have knowledge of
clandestine locations. Very young Filipino children are coerced to perform sex acts for live
internet broadcast to paying foreigners; this typically occurs in private residences or internet
cafes and is often facilitated by family members. Child sex tourists include persons from
Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Northeast Asia, Europe, and North America; Filipino
men also purchase commercial sex acts from child trafficking victims. Organized crime
syndicates transport sex trafficking victims from China through the Philippines en route to other

Public officials, including those in diplomatic missions abroad, law enforcement agencies, and
other government entities, are reported to be complicit in trafficking or allow traffickers to
operate with impunity. Reports assert some corrupt officials accept payments or sexual services
from establishments notorious for trafficking, accept bribes to facilitate illegal departures for
overseas workers, downgrade trafficking charges, or overlook unscrupulous labor recruiters. At
times, police conduct indiscriminate or fake raids on commercial sex establishments to extort
money from managers, clients, and victims. Some personnel working at Philippine embassies
abroad reportedly sexually harass victims of domestic servitude, withhold back wages procured
for them, subject them to domestic servitude for a second time, or coerce sexual acts in
exchange for government protection services.

The Government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the
elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government
convicted 54 traffickers and took steps to expedite prosecutions. In an effort to prevent
trafficking of migrant workers, authorities conducted training and awareness campaigns for
government officials, prospective employees, and the general public. Officials proactively
identified victims exploited within the country. However, the government did not make efforts to
provide all trafficking victims access to specialized services; protection for male victims
remained minimal. Authorities convicted only one labor trafficker. The government did not make
significant efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Pervasive corruption
undermined government efforts to combat trafficking, and investigations of potentially complicit
officials did not lead to criminal convictions and in some cases even failed to secure
administrative punishment against offenders.


Increase efforts to hold government officials administratively and criminally accountable for
trafficking and trafficking-related offenses through criminal prosecutions, convictions, and
stringent sentences; increase the availability of shelter and protection resources that address
the specific needs of trafficking victims, with a particular focus on male victims; allow freedom of
movement to adult victims residing in government facilities; continue to increase efforts to
investigate, prosecute, and convict both labor and sex traffickers who exploit victims within the
country and abroad; widely implement the continuous trial mechanism to increase the speed of
trafficking prosecutions; develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for
commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism; prevent the governments armed forces or
auxiliary armed groups supported by the government from recruiting or using children, and
investigate any such allegations; continue to train front-line officers on appropriate methods to
assist children apprehended from armed groups; and continue to strengthen anti-trafficking
training for judicial officials, law enforcement, and diplomats.


The government demonstrated increased law enforcement efforts. The Philippines prohibits sex
and labor trafficking through its 2003 and 2012 anti-trafficking acts, which prescribe penalties of
six years to life imprisonment plus fines up to five million pesos ($112,000), which are
sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as
rape. This law also defines purchasing commercial sex from a child as a trafficking offense.
During the reporting period, police investigated 282 alleged cases of trafficking, up from 155 the
previous year. Of these, 158 cases involved sex trafficking of adults, 110 cases involved forced
labor of adults, and 12 involved sex or labor trafficking of children. The government reported the
investigation of two attempted trafficking cases; however, the details of these cases remain
unknown. The National Bureau of Investigation initiated 107 trafficking investigations. The
government prosecuted at least 595 defendants, compared with 663 defendants during the
previous year. Authorities convicted 53 sex traffickers, an increase from 31 the previous
reporting year, and acquitted three individuals. It obtained one conviction for labor trafficking.
The government did not take any law enforcement actions to punish the recruitment and use of
child soldiers. Sentences for those convicted ranged from 10 years to life imprisonment, with
most offenders sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2014, the Supreme Court instituted the
continuous trial system pilot project, significantly expediting trafficking prosecutions; seven
trafficking cases were completed in less than one year. However, endemic inefficiencies in the
judicial system left some cases pending prosecution.

The government made strong efforts to provide anti-trafficking training to authorities, with a
particular focus on disaster-stricken regions. The Interagency Council Against Trafficking
(IACAT) and its taskforces conducted and co-organized 99 training sessions and workshops on
trafficking, directly aiding over 5,000 prosecutors, law enforcers, and social workers. In addition,
police conducted 6,138 community activities to discuss enforcement of the anti-trafficking law.
Philippine officials continued to cooperate with foreign governments to pursue international law
enforcement action against suspected traffickers; six such trafficking investigations were
initiated in 2014. Authorities conducted administrative investigations of public officials for
potential complicity in the facilitation of trafficking, although it was unclear how many
investigations authorities initiated. No new or ongoing investigations resulted in criminal
prosecutions or convictions, and 19 cases were ongoing at the close of the reporting period. A
2013 case of an embassy official in Kuwait who violated the Philippines anti-trafficking law
remained pending prosecution, with no criminal charges filed in 2014. Administrative
investigations of personnel working in Philippine embassies in the Middle East accused of
mistreating and re-victimizing Filipina victims of domestic servitude remained ongoing. Ottawa
police charged a Philippine diplomat and her spouse posted in Canada with domestic servitude,
but it was unclear what steps the Philippines government took to address this case.


The government continued to proactively identify and provide limited services to victims.
Comprehensive statistics for the total number of victims identified and assisted were not
available; however, in the 291 cases (14 for forced labor and 277 for sex trafficking) monitored
by the anti-trafficking taskforce, IACAT reported identification of 1,089 victims, of whom 741
were female, 95 male, and 253 children. The Department of Social Welfare and Development
(DSWD) reported serving 1,395 trafficking victims, of whom 346 were children; the majority
were subjected to forced labor. The government followed formal procedures to identify victims
and refer them to official agencies or NGO facilities for care. Victims were identified through
rescue operations, screening at borders, reports to embassies abroad, and calls to the national
anti-trafficking help line, which referred 23 victims to assistance within the country, Malaysia,
Jordan, and Lebanon.

The government, through the recovery and reintegration program and partnership with NGOs,
provided victims with shelter, psycho-social support, medical services, legal assistance, and
vocational training. It allocated approximately 23 million pesos ($530,000) for the
implementation of this program. The DSWD continued to operate 26 temporary shelters for
women and children victims of abuse, including trafficking; however, the facilities and services
remained inadequate to address the specific needs of victims. The DSWD reported providing
853 trafficking victims with temporary care at these shelters. Child victims, who were required to
stay temporarily in the shelters, and adult victims choosing to reside there were not permitted to
leave unattended. Only five of the 26 facilities had the capacity to shelter male victims, and
some boy victims were placed in shelters for children in conflict with the law. Protective services
for male victims remained scarce, and the DSWD prematurely discharged them without
investigating for trafficking indicators, which negatively affected their rehabilitation. The
government provided a small amount of funding to NGOs, which delivered the vast majority of
specialized services to trafficking victims; however, the lack of long-term care, absence of
mental health services, and familial involvement in facilitating exploitation left many victims
vulnerable to re-trafficking. In 2014, the government assisted 22 children involved in armed

The government lacked a formal policy to safeguard victims electing to testify against traffickers.
Although officials offered victim-witness protection against reprisals through a protection,
security, and benefit program, the program failed to fully cover victims needs, and the lengthy
approval process discouraged victims from applying for assistance. Victims lacked financial
incentives to cooperate in criminal proceedings as out-of-court settlements often resulted in
monetary compensation, while financial penalties imposed upon offenders by courts often went
unpaid. Reports did not identify victims punished for unlawful acts committed as a result of
being subjected to trafficking. Although no foreign victims were identified in the Philippines
during the year, the government had long-term alternatives to the removal to countries where
victims may face hardship or retribution.

The government continued robust efforts to prevent trafficking. Government anti-trafficking
taskforces, in consultation with NGOs, continued to implement the 2012-2016 strategic plan to
combat trafficking. Authorities allocated 200,000 pesos ($4,500) for community education
programs on trafficking in nine provinces, which reached more than 2,500 participants, including
prospective migrants. The DSWD conducted 54 advocacy activities on the anti-trafficking law,
which benefited over 2,000 people across the country. IACAT also funded anti-trafficking forums
and orientation workshops for approximately 10,000 students and women and childrens rights
advocates. Through social media, television, and other platforms, the government provided anti-
trafficking information to the general public.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency conducted 13 seminars to discuss the expanded
anti-trafficking law; officials investigated 129 cases involving 289 victims of illegal recruitment
and closed 11 non-licensed establishments. Officials referred 124 cases for criminal
investigation proceedings. The government did not report how many individuals involved in
illegal recruitment were prosecuted, but they did report eight illegal recruitment convictions
during the reporting year. The Bureau of Immigration continued to screen for potential victims at
airports and seaports; however, this indiscriminate screening mechanism may be indicative of
the government unduly restricting Filipinos right to travel outside the country. Despite significant
local and foreign demand in the countrys vast commercial sex trade, the governments efforts to
reduce the demand for commercial sex acts were negligible, and authorities reported no efforts
to reduce the demand for forced labor. In an effort to prevent child sex tourism, the government
filed 17 charges against 13 foreign child sex offenders during the reporting year. In 2014, the
government assisted 22 children involved in armed conflict; however, no law enforcement
actions were taken to punish the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Government agencies
trained 176 front-line workers on how to properly monitor and prevent child rights violations, to
include child soldiering. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance to
Philippine troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions and
its diplomatic personnel.