Different stakeholders have gathered on October 1, 2014 at Sardonyx Plaza, Cotabato City and discussed about the possibility of bringing to the barangay level the documentation and monitoring mechanism that would prevent and uphold the rights of victims/survivors of labor trafficking and illegal recruitment in Cotabato City.
About seventy-five (75) representatives from the community-based organizations, barangay local government units, non-government organizations, government agencies and Sangguniang Panlungsod office have attended the Stakeholders Forum: Towards Establishing A Barangay-Level Mechanism to Document and Monitor Labor Trafficking and Illegal Recruitment in Cotabato City.
Led by Kaagapay Overseas Filipino Workers Resource and Service Center, Incorporated in partnership with the Cotabato City Women Council (CCWC), the stakeholders expressed positive feedback on the presented mechanism.
Barangay local government unit (BLGU) as the basic and most accessible unit of government is involved in the recruitment process of overseas/local employment only through releasing of Barangay Clearance/Certification as a prerequisite document in obtaining passport from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Cotabato Consular Office. However, there was no concrete mechanism that would make the BLGU responsible in preventing the incidence of labor trafficking and illegal recruitment in its respective barangay and/or no concrete information and details that could be use to sue/prosecute the trafficker/recruiter. This is the gap seen with the existing efforts of the different concerned agencies like the present formation of Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (IACAT) and all other initiatives of government and non-government institutions that aim to eradicate or at least lessen the incidence of labor trafficking and illegal recruitment.
The proposed mechanism would authorize BLGUs to record/document the important details such as name of the manning/recruitment agency with its corresponding contact details, name of the recruiter/agent (if any) and his/her contact information and proof of identity, country of work as to where the constituent is applying for work, nature of work that the constituent is applying for and all other relevant information need to obtain before releasing the requested Barangay Clearance/Certification. In this event, any anomalies of the recruitment process could be prevented and the information obtained could be use in filing a case/complaint against involved parties/entities should there be rights violation perpetrated.
The forum also provided opportunities for the stakeholders to learn from each other’s initiatives that could also help develop the mechanism. Barangay Poblacion 6, for instance, requires their constituent to submit COMELEC Certification or Voter’s ID before a clearance is awarded while Barangay Mother Bagua, because of the extensive coverage of the barangay, requires their constituent to submit a signed clearance from the Purok Leader before a Barangay Clearance is released.
Though the advocacy concept is acceptable to the stakeholders, there were challenges, concerns and recommendations raised that also need to be comprehensively considered by all the stakeholders. (1) List of licensed manning/recruitment agencies operating in the area should be provided to the BLGUs, (2) massive dissemination of right information in every barangay about labor trafficking and illegal recruitment and the ways to prevent it, (3) building and strengthening the capacity of the barangay officials as part of establishing the mechanism, (4) community-based organizations, especially members of the Cotabato City Women Council (CCWC), should accompany the BLGUs in monitoring labor trafficking and illegal recruitment in their respective barangay, (5) a local ordinance should be formulated for the purpose of this advocacy through the office of Sangguniang Panlungsod Member Christina Chua as chairperson of the Women’s Committee, (6) concerns about labor trafficking and illegal recruitment shall be integrated to the current formulation of the Gender and Development (GAD) Code of the city and (7) for the City Government to strengthen local economy and employment.
It has been acknowledged that all the stakeholders have differentiated responsibilities over the issue of labor trafficking and illegal recruitment in the city; that it is not only the responsibility of government agencies/institutions or barangay officials but all the members of the community. In such a way, a good image of Cotabato City is established.