Saturday, June 19, 2010

Calling Out For Help in Teeny Ways

Let's get this straight, I work full-time as a customer service representative for a bank. You may think I see money laundering as in millions of dollars. Sometimes I do but usually it's not even at an amount I can substantiate with to create a report. The US Federal Reserve may have created a somewhat comprehensive anti-money laundering policy for banks and other financial institutions to follow to prevent this but these guidelines are only after the big guns, which are very rare. In my own daily experience in dealing with the public, it is always around $5,000. Or in some instances, a few hundred dollars or even less than $20. Interacting with people in the bank setting for more than nine years has made me sensitive enough to pick up on subtle clues of people's behavior...

And then there are the real clues of human trafficking or enslavement that I can pick up on just like that. The fear and the strain in the victims' eyes are very apparent. Their souls are screaming, "Get me out of here! Please, help me!" Last week, I was helping a young Russian or eastern European lady with a credit card issue. The lady was so thin and gaunt that I was scared for her health. An older lady who appeared to be right around her ideal weight was impatiently waiting for her, appeared to be watching her every move and listening to her every word. This lady only comes in with cash to either make a deposit into her account or pay her credit card. Even with this, I cannot say that she truly is a victim of human trafficking.

Then, there are the Chinese people who do pretty suspicious transactions but it is so routine that most of my colleagues no longer question it. They have no clue that behind the accumulation of these wads of cash are people being abused and exploited for the benefit of greedy monsters. I see it everyday at work that I want to cut my hands most of the time. Before I began to fully understand the big problem of human trafficking, I just thought it was nothing but individuals trying to evade taxes or the authorities. No longer do I see it that way. My heart breaks every single evening knowing I could have freed a modern slave by just saying something but my words would surely fall on deaf ears.

Fear is mostly to be blamed for this because these people would kill you or your loved ones to silence you. But I am no longer afraid. In my own experience (personal not work), a great lack of courage has prevented justice from being served in the Philippine courts of murdered people. People are threatened and intimidated to do certain things. Vote buying has been a huge problem in Philippine elections. Just look at the headlines from the recent national and local elections... Just type in "Philippine elections" in any search engine and you'll see how dirty politics can really be.

In my own hometown, there is a red light district because of the former US Clark Air Force Base. Now, Americans, Australians, Europeans, Japanese and even Koreans can be found there as sex tourists. There has been many efforts to curb prostitution in Angeles City (my hometown). The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has a large human trafficking task force that it also sends its specialists to other southeast Asian nations to provide assistance in raids and also, give expert advice. Local officials have been doing their best to abolish prostitution here ever since the US military has set foot in this city but corruption has plagued the Philippine archipelago so much that as soon as you put one fire out in one place, another one begins nearby (which is true also of the whole world, unfortunately).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is the World Turning a Blind Eye Towards Child Labor?

Yesterday (June 12, 2010) was "World Day Against Child Labor." The only way people would find out that news if they were part of a network that helps to either abolish child labor altogether or improve the working conditions of child workers. In the United States, yesterday was all about the FIFA World Cup being held in South Africa because the US team was playing against England. All of Washington DC was filled with soccer fever yesterday.

But amidst all the celebratory screams for the World Cup, where heroes are made, the children of the poor are being exploited by greedy criminals around the world even in South Africa. In the host cities like Durban and Johannesburg, there are young girls under 18 being prostituted by sex traffickers to make profits on the influx of soccer fans from all over. And throughout the African continent, children who are capable of doing household chores are enslaved into domestic work for what I consider as (I'm not going to be apologetic here) insolent grown-up human pigs. If these children refuse to offer sexual favors or to do housework, they are frequently beaten, burned and sometimes killed.

A child is a human being. A child represents one human life that has so much potential if tapped properly. In all of history, vulnerable populations especially children--who are not powerful enough to fight for their own rights--have been viewed by people (who unfortunately let the animal nature take over their will) as a group whose only purpose is for their own gain like machines that can discarded or reused. We are all part of the human race. We are like a drop of water, as Mahatma Gandhi is quoted, and we all make the ocean of life. Everything we do affects others. Not one action can be separated from the whole world.

For the human race to advance into outer space (the ultimate frontier for human beings in my view), we all must make sure that we respect all human life as if it was our own. Many people think "not my child, not my responsibility." This is a wrong attitude to take. Each child represents a brighter future for all of us. Remember all the miraculous stories of child prodigies... These children were given proper care and education that made them into individuals they are. I don't think I'm being delusional to say "Imagine if this is what we did for all the world's children." Yes! This world would be the world of peace and progress we all hoped for. But as long as we neglect their needs as children who are growing into full-grown adults, we will never climb out of the mess the world is in today as it has been for millennia...

These soccer players were children too. They were nurtured with the best childcare and parenting in the world that made them the great soccer players that they are. And if we can get the whole world excited about soccer or futbol (as most of the world knows it by), why can't we create a worldwide rage against child labor?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Free Speech & Child Pornography VS Children

Here is a true but horrible fact about child pornography: 76 percent of individuals arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child.

On May 31, 2010, RTE (a television network in Ireland) had aired a "Prime Time Investigates" episode on "Crimes Against Children" . It interviewed child pornography experts from the United States (the Federal Bureau of Investigation), Europe (the European Commission) and in Ireland (the Garda). It narrates how both adult men and adult women record themselves sexually abusing minors. Infants and toddlers are also being raped. A two month old girl was recorded with a man penetrating her. These small voiceless children are being sexually abused because they cannot articulate to people what is being done to them. The most heartbreaking story is of a 12 year old boy having to face the shame of having to watch himself with his father of him being sexually abused by a trusted family friend to help law enforcement identify the molester. Many western European countries, even England, have been blocking access to child pornography Web sites. But Ireland has done nothing... It is 100 percent certain you will be able to view images and videos of minors being abused and molested online.

But this episode does not just cover Ireland, it also talks about the problem here in the United States. Fortunately, possessing any form of child pornography is illegal in both Ireland and the United States. And many do get arrested and sentenced with a "sex offender" status for life.

In May 25, 2010, the United Nations "launched a major campaign for a universal adoption of treaty protocols that outlaw the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography, and protect youngsters in armed conflicts, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calling for ratification by 2012." But will this be enough...

Japan has recently blocked a ban on child pornography in defense of the freedom of the press and free speech. This is not surprising unfortunately. Modern Japanese culture has been subtly promoting sexual abuse of women and children. There is an anime genre called hentai that mostly consist of raping young girls. And worst, there is a video game Rapelay in which you gain points by sexually molesting a woman and her two daughters. Now what does that tell you...

The same day the UN launched their campaign to protect vulnerable children, a local Philadelphia television news show (NBC) aired a report on Pedophile Playbook . Pedophile Playbook is basically a more than 700 pages long online bible through the whole process of sexually abusing a child from luring an unsuspecting victim to actually raping them in various ways. But this cannot be blocked or removed from the World Wide Web because it is protected by the US Constitution under the right to "free speech."

So, what is more important--"free speech" or children?