Now, the sad part
Since 1991, Visayan Forum (VF) innovates solutions to end child labor, domestic abuse and human-trafficking particularly of women and children. VF’s pioneering works in fighting the evils of this so-called modern human-slavery have been acknowledged worldwide.
International Labour Organization-International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC) and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) recognized VF’s work with child domestic workers as an ‘international best practice’. Also the U.S. Department of State in its 2005 Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report cited VF’s anti-trafficking partnership with the Philippine government and private shipping companies as ‘one of the international best practices’.
This leading non-governmental organization (NGO) in the country is also instrumental in pushing for the ratification of the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, immediate passage of the Batas Kasambahay or Domestic Workers Act, amendment of RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking Law, and improving existing implementation mechanisms and the capacities of accountable front-line agencies.
VF also greatly contributed in providing awareness to the public regarding sex trades in the country and how it operates—like how children and young women (mostly between 12-22 yrs. old) are being ‘trafficked’ or brought from the rural provinces to Manila in the guise of employment such as domestic workers yet most of them ended up in sex dens.
VF’s Founder and Chief Executive Director Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, who envisions a world ‘where vulnerable migrants
are free, protected and empowered’, is recognized as the first person to win the Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor by the U.S. Department of Labor and an Anti-Slavery Awardee from Anti-Slavery International, its organization profile says.
The organization was also awarded the Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution in 2009.
The organization has ‘rescued and helped more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of human trafficking’ as it has its operations in National Capital Region, Batangas, Sorsogon, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Davao, Southern Leyte, Samar, Surigao, and Zamboanga, in its information in Wikipedia .
In the countryside, its notable project includes “Balay Silungan sa Daungan” (Home Shelter at the Port), a center offering 24-hour “safety and catchment” services for victims of trafficking being stopped by police, local authorities and other child rights advocates. There victims of human trafficking, sex trades, and children who travel alone/stranded at the seaport are being given temporary shelter, counseling and legal aid.
The establishment of these Centers located in the ports of said provinces is also in coordination with the Philippine Port Authority (PPA).
And now comes the accusation—and legal charges filed by the US Embassy in Manila against the organization, alleging them of ‘falsification of documents’ (and other irregularities) aimed to ‘defraud’ the international agency USAID with its around P300 million donations funneled to the group since 2005. This fund also covers VF’s Home Shelter at the Port projects. The ‘whistle-blower’ is no less than VF’s former bookkeeper Maria Analie Villacorte.
“We are shocked by the malicious attack to our reputation–built for 20 years with blood, sweat and tears. We feel betrayed by the lack of due process. The accusations are unfounded. We will staunchly defend our integrity in court and in other forums. Partners, you are aware of what we have done together and it would help if you come out to testify about our shared successes,” Visayan Forum posted on its official social media site.
Just like everyone else, this corner hopes that ‘truth shall prevail’ in this issue. (Comments at email@example.com)
By: Ronald O. Reyes
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