Baguio City (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - A Protestant bishop here said he was "guilty" of at least two counts of trafficking.
Filipino bishop Donald Soriano of the Bethesda Ministries said this happened when a parishioner sought his advice and prayer when she applied for a job as a maid in a country in the Middle East.
"So I prayed for her, encouraging her that job would help uplift her poor family," said Soriano.
After a few months the parishioner called Soriano from abroad. "She was crying and complained that she was being maltreated," he said. Soriano could only pray to comfort her.
Meanwhile, Soriano immediately sought the help of a senator who coordinated with the embassy in that country to rescue the troubled Filipino.
"By praying for and encouraging my parishioner for that job, it didn't occur to me that she was being sent to a country notorious for some employers who violate basic human rights and abusing the dignity of their workers," said Soriano.
"So in a way, I was guilty of helping abet this modern-day slavery called human trafficking," he said.
Told recently before other pastors and civic leaders gathered for the launching of a movement here against trafficking, Soriano's story was his way of driving the message that there are various forms of human trafficking of which men, including pastors, are guilty of.
The new movement is called the Men Against the Trafficking of Others, or Mattoo, which civic leaders organized in the United States in 2010.
Soriano got in touch with Mattoo leaders when he was in Minnesota last year to meet with donors for the feeding and nutrition program of his church and other local partners.
From initial meetings in November, Soriano sought out his network of church and civic leaders nationwide to launch last month the Mattoo movement in urban centers like Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Naga, Manila, Baguio and Ilagan in Isabela.
Mattoo seeks to strike at the root of what drives human trafficking-demand.
"From our Business 101, we've learned that any business or industry is governed by the law of supply and demand," Mattoo International vice president Mark Cross told a recent forum here attended mostly by pastors.
"The demand for human trafficking, which includes the organized recruitment of women and children for slave labor and commercial sex trade, comes from men," said Cross.
Mattoo has noted that almost all efforts of government agencies and private organizations helping address human trafficking have focused on intelligence and police work and rehabilitation of victims.
"We are therefore focusing on the demand side," said Cross. "[The Mattoo movement] is about men rising up and saying, 'This is enough,'" he said.
How large is the demand? Of the 27 million enslaved worldwide, 19 million are in sex trafficking, said Cross, citing data from the United Nations, the US government and other international private organizations.
"If the 19 million are 'sold' once a day, they are 'sold' 17 billion times in a year," he said.
And the age of those trafficked worldwide is getting younger, at an average age of 11, because of the increasing fear of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) infection and other diseases, said Cross.
He said human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, generating $32 billion in annual profits.
"When Mattoo began in 2010, trafficking was third, but now it's second after drugs," he said. "Human trafficking is also tied with illegal arms."
Cross then showed a slide of a few Hollywood stars and ordinary citizens in various parts of the world, who, as a way of committing themselves to respecting the dignity of women, are carrying placards which read: "Real men don't buy girls."
Men's role is crucial in cutting the demand for trafficking, said Cross.
"Men can stand up and create hope and prove that they do oppose enslavement," he said.