DAVAO CITY – Human trafficking victims like Mary Jane Veloso, who is still on death row in Indonesia, should not be blamed for their condition, said an international group.

Pastor Amy Muranko-Gahan, founder of Global Impact Foundation Philippines said “a victim should never be blamed, a victim should be helped and empowered.”

“Of course, there’s always different decisions that potentially could have been made but the very essence of a victim is that they don’t understand, they don’t know,” said Muranko-Gahan.

She said “we should never push a victim away and accuse them, we should help them and empower them.”

Muranko-Gahan said governments who are “recipients” of trafficked individuals, like Indonesia in the case of Veloso, “shouldn’t treat them as criminals, they should treat them as a victim.”

Muranko-Gahan likened a trafficked individual to “a person was forced into prostitution and she was arrested for being a prostitute, in fact she was is a victim and she shouldn’t have been treated as a criminal.”

“With Mary Jane with others in the same situation, they were the one that were deceived, forced or victimized,” she said.

Veloso is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Indonesia who was recently set to be executed via a firing squad because of a drug-trafficking case.

Veloso’s execution was delayed as the suspect who allegedly duped her into carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia surrendered herself to Philippine authorities.

International protests in Indonesian embassies and consulates, an online signature campaign that reached 200,000 e-signatures and a text barrage to the Indonesia Prime Minister were some of the efforts to convince Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant reprieve to Veloso.

However, eight other prisoners were executed despite strong messages from their governments.

Australia has recalled its ambassador from Indonesia as two of its citizens were among those who were executed.

Meanwhile, Muranko-Gahan said helping Veloso should not be left to the government.

“Churches, non-government organizations business and others should help and shouldn’t leave it all to the government,” she said.

Poverty to blame

Muranko-Gahan said poverty is the number reason why people become vulnerable to human-trafficking.

“Poverty causes people to probably take risks that they wouldn’t normally take. I think we can all understand that if you can’t feed yourself, you can’t feed your children, you are willing to do whatever it takes to feed your family, impoverished conditions increase vulnerability,” she said.

She said disasters are also exploited by traffickers and so is “lack of education and knowledge” among the populace as two of the three factors making individuals vulnerable.

She said their group is also trying to address the lack of knowledge as “knowledge keeps them from being victimized.”

“Freedom! Philippines” campaign

Global Impact will conduct two concerts this month as part of their “Freedom! Philippines” campaign “to combat human trafficking through education, training and awareness.”

The first concert will be on May 7, 7:30 pm during the 2015 Palarong Pambansa Advocacy Night at the Tourism Village of the Davao del Norte Sports and Tourism Complex with celebrity artist Christian Bautista.

The second concert will be on May 15, 7 pm at the Matina Town Square in Davao City with artist Aljur Abrenica.

The group will collect a minimum of P10 during the May 15 concert as a form donation which will include a raffle ticket. (davaotoday.com)

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