In this two part series on the US/Philippines human trafficking epidemic, Abby Martin recalls the history of the colonization of the Philippines and how it has led to a dramatic rise in human trafficking of Philippine workers.
She interviews the executive director of Damayan, the 8,000 member strong New York City based organization created and led by Filipino women domestic workers that provides legal assistance to migrant workers and human trafficking victims, as well as other victims of human trafficking who have experienced the dark side of migrant employment.
The Philippines has suffered the consequences of occupation and colonization for hundreds of years with the effects still being seen today in the form of poverty, job shortages and a human trafficking epidemic. A shocking 10% of the Philippine population must leave the country in order to seek employment in hopes of sending money back to their families. An estimated 6,000 people, mostly women, leave the Philippines daily to seek work.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry that entraps millions of people across the globe. The majority of victims are abused– living and working in shockingly inhumane conditions. Particularly horrifying is the fact that, in the Philippines, humans have become the number one export.
Most of these migrant workers leave the Philippines for the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Japan where they work in low-wage jobs. In fact, 21 million people are working in forced labor situations worldwide- many of them right under the noses of the average citizen of these countries.
There are currently 2 million migrant domestic workers working in the United States. According to the recent report The Human Trafficking of Domestic Workers in The United States, over 80% of these workers have experienced their pay being withheld or having been paid under minimum wage, 81% live in abusive conditions and 73% work excessive overtime.
Through this process, many of these migrant workers have become victims of human trafficking and have found themselves stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of abuse and neglect. But what has led to this disturbing trend? Why do so many Filipinos flee their home country for work and subject themselves to such harsh and inhumane conditions?
The Philippines was first claimed by the Spanish in 1525. The indigenous Filipino people engaged in over 300 armed revolts over the next three hundred years, eventually securing their independence after a two year long war of independence. At the time, Spain was also engaged in the Spanish-American war. Upon losing that war, Spain negotiated the sale of the Philippines to the United States, behind the backs of the Filipino people, for a total sum of $20 million in the Treaty of Paris.
This began a many decade-long hostile relationship between the Filipino people and their new occupiers from the United States. With such a volatile relationship, conflicts occurred frequently resulting in the deaths of numerous Filipinos. In one such conflict, the Moro Crater Massacre, only six out of 1,000 Filipinos survived. Shockingly, in the first 15 years of colonization, more Filipinos were killed by the U.S. than during the entire three hundred years of Spanish occupation.
As the violence decreased, the occupation took on a new form– economic destruction and experiments in neocolonialism. There quickly became a dependence on U.S. patronage for survival of the now fragile Philippine economy and the U.S. began focusing it’s efforts and attention on the elite of the Filipino people– training and educating them to be vehicles of U.S. colonization.
This led to the granting of Philippine independence in 1946 but that independence was only in name. With the puppets of neocolonialism now in charge of the country, the U.S. continued to have a direct line of control, only now it was slightly obscured. Also in 1946, the United States Congress passed the Rescission Act, stripping Filipinos who fought in defense of the U.S. against the Japanese during World War II of the benefits they were promised for doing so, yet another damaging blow to the Philippine people.
Tensions between the Filipino people and the U.S. backed ruling class have continued to this day, with the Philippine economy continuing to suffer and a successful government propaganda campaign encouraging workers to seek employment elsewhere via the Philippine Labor Migration Policy continuing to grow. In this episode, Abby Martin details the history of the colonization of the Philippines, starting with the Spanish in 1525 and ending with the present day situation, leading to an exodus of able-bodied workers from the Philippines to all corners of the globe– often ripping families apart and damaging relationships for years to come.
“The history of the Philippine resistance is an unbroken chain– from it’s first hand-to-hand battles against colonizers wearing armor and swords to it’s organizing against today’s exploiters who wear three piece suits, the poor and oppressed of the Philippines are much more than victims of the system, but are indeed the force that will change it.”
Part One: Buying a Slave – The Hidden World of US/Philippines Trafficking
Part Two: The Roots of the Philippines Trafficking Epidemic