Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. While the Philippines has adopted measures intended to eliminate this despicable trade, it has failed to keep up with challenges brought about by technological advancements that frustrate efforts towards this end. The Internet, for one, has provided broader opportunities for the business, creating a new means by which persons may be exploited. Through this medium, traffickers are able to cast a wider net and expand their clientele by making transactions more convenient and accessible to target consumers.
The service, once requiring physical presence and connections with go-betweens are now made available to customers in the comfort of their own homes and under the cloak of anonymity. Unsuspecting individuals become easy preys as well, falling for false job offers that appear to be legitimate only to find themselves later on engaged in the sex trade and unable to leave it either out of fear or dire financial need. The mail-to-order bride industry has also benefitted from the creation of websites, which allows it to reach a wider audience and makes bride selection easier by providing a database of women to choose from, requiring only a few clicks to conclude business. Traffickers are thus put at an advantage, better able to offer their services more efficiently as well as recruit victims more easily, all the while left untargeted by the law.
While we celebrate the ease with which commerce is conducted and concluded today, it is best to remember that not all e-businesses are legal and legitimate. Trafficking in persons is a prime example of an illicit industry that has unfortunately flourished and benefitted from the fruits of e-commerce. More importantly it is one, which to date, has remained at the outskirts of legislative regulation.