International Development: Communities stand up to injustice in the Philippines

published on 20 Feb 2015

Today (Friday 20 February) is the World Day of Social Justice, a day that prompts us to look around us, recognise the injustice that darkens our world and take action to help justice shine through. This year’s focus is human trafficking and forced labour.


Jeferson lives in Mindanao in southern Philippines. When he turned 16 his parents could no longer afford to pay for him to go to school. Jeferson was desperate to find a way to support them and his four siblings but was unable to find work in the local area. His father, Jonathan, was contacted by a family friend in another city who said an agency hiring for Coca-Cola had approached him. They apparently needed young strong boys to load and offload crates from the truck to the stores. Three other families in the village were also approached and agreed that their sons could work for Coca-Cola. However, this wasn’t the case.

Instead the boys were picked up at night and taken in a panel van to Marawi in the north of Mindanao, where another dialect is spoken. Upon arrival, they were taken to a restaurant and told to begin work immediately. The boys lived in a cramped duck house meant for poultry. Their mobiles phones and money was taken from them and they were told that if they tried to escaped or seek help they would be killed. The boys were forced to clean dishes, wash floors and set tables for 19 hours a day and given just one meal, which they had to pay for.

After 12 days, the boys were physically and mentally exhausted. Unable to endure more, the boys ran away and made contact with their families at a local police station. The parents, desperate to see their children again, paid $200 each for their return. Jonathan was forced to sell the family’s only goat to pay for the transport.

Once home Jeferson and the other boys received counselling from Salvation Army volunteers through home visits, as well as support with the transport fees paid by the families and education support for them to return to school. Jonathon now volunteers with The Salvation Army and tells his son’s story to convince other parents of trafficker’s techniques. Jeferson hopes to finish school and become a mechanic.


The Salvation Army in the Philippines is reaching out to trafficking survivors and communities vulnerable to trafficking by mobilising volunteers to protect, support and stand up against the injustice of trafficking. You can support the work of volunteers like Jonathan by donating to our anti-trafficking work here.