PH vows to improve efforts vs human trafficking

MANILA – The Philippines can still do much from the Tier 2 rating it received from the Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report for four consecutive years, Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday.

Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet the minimum requirements of the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to do so, while those in Tier 1 status are fully compliant with the TVPA.

Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said he is pleased with the country’s consistent performance in the GTIP report but said that the Philippines could still improve in its efforts to curb human trafficking.

“On behalf of all IACAT members, I wish to assure our kababayans (countrymen) that we remain firm in our commitment to achieve Tier 1 status. We have taken note of all of the recommendations listed in the 2014 GTIP report and we will focus our energies to meet them,” Binay said.

He also thanked the US State Department’s guidance in helping the Philippines identify its areas of opportunity.

Binay urged victims to file and pursue cases against those who have been apprehended for human trafficking.

“All our efforts will be for nothing if we do not have the support of those who have been victimized,” he said.

“Rest assured that the government will exert all efforts to assist and protect you while the cases are being heard,” he added.

The latest GTIP report noted that “the government nearly doubled its funding for the IACAT to the equivalent of approximately $2.4 million and continued efforts to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies at the national, regional, and provincial levels.”

“It undertook notable efforts to prevent the trafficking of overseas workers through training and awareness campaigns for government officials, prospective overseas workers and members of the public and to proactively identify and rescue victims exploited within the country.

“The government obtained 31 trafficking convictions, including its first two convictions in Pampanga, a province known to have a high prevalence of trafficking,” it added.

Among the recommendations included in the report were for the government to increase efforts to hold government officials criminally accountable for trafficking and trafficking-related offenses, and increase efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict an increased number of both labor and sex trafficking offenders implicated in trafficking within the country and abroad.

The State Department also urged the government to hold continuous trials to decrease the burden that lengthy, discontinuous trials place on victims, and “increase the number of government officials, including police and prosecutors, whose duties are dedicated solely to anti-trafficking activities” and to “continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, judges, local officials and diplomats.”

Furthermore, the GTIP report recommended the implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in cases of trafficking and provide victims compensation through seized assets.

The report noted that the “protection for male victims – a growing population – remained severely limited” and recommended the government to “increase the availability of shelter and protection resources that address the specific needs of trafficking victims, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of male victims.”