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Concrete Results in Fight Against Human Trafficking To Bring Foreign Aid- Legarda

September 1, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA, CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, WANTS A CONCRETE ACCOMPLISHMENT REPORT ON THE ARREST, PROSECUTION AND CONVICTION OF HUMAN TRAFFICKERS FROM THE INTER-AGENCY COUNCIL AGAINST TRAFFICKING COMPOSED OF OFFICIALS FROM THE DOJ, DSWD, DFA, DOLE, POEA, BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION, AND THE PNP.
“Seven years have passed since the passage of our law against human trafficking, mandating the creation of a National Strategic Plan of Action against trafficking, and yet it seems we are going nowhere,” Legarda said, citing the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report of the US Department of State placing the Philippines on the Tier 2 Watchlist because of the government’s failure to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“The statistics have become alarming. Our women are used as drug mules and are victims of sex trafficking in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and in the Middle East. However, since our law was enacted in 2003, there have only been 18 convictions. Significantly, for labor trafficking cases, there has never been any conviction.”
Currently, there are about 380 pending trafficking cases in Philippine courts.
Any country ranked in the Tier 2 Watchlist for two consecutive years without improving its status will instead be ranked Tier 3 for the next year, with strict exceptions, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
“If downgraded to Tier 3, the Philippines may be subjected to certain sanctions which might include withholding of all non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance, and elimination of educational and cultural exchange programs for government officials. Indeed, the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) authorizes the US President to do this,” Legarda cautioned. “The downgrading puts to risk over $250 Million worth of foreign assistance, including a grant of $434 million from the US Millennium Challenge Account. Imposed sanctions are expected to take effect on 1 October 2010.”
Pres. Noynoy Aquino is set to leave for the US in September to finalize the acceptance by the Philippines of the $434 million MCA Fund.
Legarda concluded, “Within the country, human trafficking from rural areas to urban centers is rooted in illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, lack of information on the problem, and poor understanding of the law by victims and by government agents tasked to protect them. Investigators, prosecutors, social workers and others on the front lines in the battle against human trafficking must aggressively pursue prosecutions under the law and obtain timely convictions for the guilty.”