The hotel’s function room quickly filled up, astonishing my fellow organizers of the first-ever CSO Summit To Combat Human Trafficking on the topic: “Using Technology To Fight Trafficking.” Former domestic worker-turned IT company owner Myrna Padilla of Mynd Consulting declared,” It’s about time that we link technology in the fight against human trafficking.”
The summit held last August 28-29 at the Traders Hotel along Roxas Bouleveard was spearheaded by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that my family and I established way back in 2004. This was the first of three such anti-trafficking conferences, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in partnership with three NGOs. Fellow summit convenors, International Justice Mission (IJM) and the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF), will hold their own summits for the child and women’s sectors, respectively, in October and November of this year.His Excellency Charge d’ Affaires a.i. Joop Scheffers welcomed nearly a hundred participants to the summit. He said: “How do we tackle trafficking in persons? We are talking about a complex phenomenon that requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach, involving a wide range of government agencies as well as civil society. In context, we commonly use the three Ps: Prevention, Prosecution and Protection. And many now rightfully add a fourth P, being the P of Partnership, because dealing with human trafficking requires partnership between government and civil society and partnerships between source, transit, and destination countries.”
Our summit was all about partnerships, with tech companies gamely sharing their expertise with anti-trafficking advocates and vice-versa. We even had a speed-geeking session where participants hopped from one exhibitor to the next in a lightning-round of presentations.
Participants went around tables manned by technologists from Orange Apps (on their educational mobile app), Bayanihan (on crowdfunding), Rappler (on their online news website), LBS Recruitment Solutions (tech-driven recruitment services), Dutch Embassy (preventing child exploitation online), Visayan Forum Foundation (on their IFight campaign), International Justice Mission (on their social media efforts), Manila Times (online website and subscription service), and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center (using Facebook to fight trafficking).
During the summit, Ronald Aguto, chief of the NBI Cybercrime Division, shared his experience investigating a case codename “Shannon Brow.” Their leads brought them to a far-flung province in Mindanao where they arrested a 22-year-old college dropout in possession of more than 50,000 child porn materials.
Minors as young as three years old were “videotaped” by their parents doing sexual and suggestive acts in exchange for money sent by clients abroad. The payment is done through wire transfer. Director Aguto has asked communities to be vigilant in detecting and reporting child porn activities.
Arjan Verhagen, Thematic Liaison Officer of the Dutch National Police, gave a comprehensive powerpoint presentation about online slavery. In his presentation, Mr. Verhagen impressed us with the urgency by which we should fight online trafficking of minors.
Microsoft Philippines sent its legal and community affairs head Atty. Raul Cortez to educate us about web safety. What he presented was an eye-opener for people in the audience who are quick to click and share personal information through the web while downloading stuff from unknown sources.
Representatives from Rappler, Interaksyon.com, and ABS-CBN briefed us about the online media. Rowena Paraan who heads the “Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo” citizen journalism arm of ABS-CBN, advised the participants to develop anti-trafficking champions from within the media. This would help pave the way for more stories about trafficking to come out, she said.
Janet Ramos of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and Atty. Rosemarie Duquez of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration demonstrated their mobile phone apps. IACAT has its own trafficking hotline: 1343 while the POEA has a mobile app that features the status and number of job orders of licensed recruitment firms.
My nephew, Carlo Ople of DIG9T, gave all of us a crash course on how to use social media particularly Facebook to boost our public awareness campaign. As usual, Carlo was a hit with some of the participants wanting to take him home as if he was a geeky teddy bear. His seven tips were practical and memorable.
The Blas F. Ople Center intends to come up with a second follow-up summit soon. With hope, we can draw in more tech companies to interface with the anti-trafficking sector in the days to come. (Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Panorama Link: Technology vs trafficking