Filipino trafficking survivors celebrate passage of recruitment bill at annual gala

LOS ANGELES – Oscar winners, music moguls, and the rich and famous; it’s not the typical place you would find Filipinos who have been exploited, swindled, and forced to work for almost no pay in a country far away.

But every year the underworld of modern day slavery crosses on to the red carpet to remember the stories of those like Angela Guanzon and Verna Barrios — Filipinos who thought they were coming to the US for decent jobs.

Guanzon remember how her passport was taken when she arrived in the US ten years ago, forced to work seven days a week for 24 hours a day as a domestic worker.

Verna Barrios who was in a similar situation remembered how she was paid $150 a month for four years, but now rejoices that she is free.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking or CAST, held their annual star-studded Slavery to Freedom gala honoring victims and advocates such as music mogul Russell Simmons.

This year’s CAST party has plenty to celebrate — the passage of a state bill that would require stricter government regulations for foreign recruiters.

California’s SB 477 would register foreign labor recruitment agencies in the hopes of prosecuting those who engage in human trafficking. SB 477 was signed into law last year and is currently awaiting implementation.

Guanzon and other members of CAST lobbied for the bill personally in Sacramento.

“What we realized in our research, the brokers were not being regulated. So that debt bondage was being created,” explained CAST’s executive director Kay Buck.

She added: “It favors the really good labor brokers, and it forces the bad foreign labor brokers to abide by the law and the result is that survivors don’t end up in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.”

For Filipinos who have been victims of human trafficking, they say never wanted the attention, only to provide for their families. But with the spotlight shining on them, the stage is theirs to raise awareness and bring change to what continues to be one of the world’s biggest epidemics.

You can contact Steve Angeles at steve_angeles@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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