In this sequel to The Empire Files’ report on trafficked Filipina domestic workers, Damayan’s Linda Oalican provides a deeper context to the epidemic of human trafficking by guiding us through the history of colonialism, resistance and US domination of the islands.
From the centuries of Spanish rule and decades of US brutality, through the evisceration of the Philippine economy, this episode is a must-watch primer on why human beings are now the nation’s top export.
The Roots of the Philippines Trafficking Epidemic
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. 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?
“Our country was ruined primarily by the U.S.” –Linda Oalican
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, a human trafficking epidemic and more.
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.”
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