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Wheels of Justice Must Churn Against Human Traffickers

August 18, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA, CHAIR OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS TODAY WARNED AGAINST THE DANGER OF THE PHILIPPINES SLIPPING INTO TIER 3 IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING WHICH COULD SUSPEND THE RELEASE OF THE US$434 MILLION GRANT TO THE PHILIPPINES FROM THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION.
Legarda who authored Republic Act 9208, the “Anti–Trafficking In Persons Act of 2003” urged the Department of Justice and the Inter–gency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to step up and increase convictions.
“The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report by the United States Department of State has pegged the Philippines in the Tier 2 levels for the last two years.”
“This Tier 2 indicator level is interpreted as the non-compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking by the Government of the Philippines. The government was not able to show evidence of significant progress in convicting trafficking offenders particularly those responsible for human trafficking.”
Legarda explained, “Any country ranked in the Tier 2 for two consecutive years will automatically be downgraded to a Tier 3 on the 3rd year seriously jeopardizing our access to millions of dollars in international aid such as the Millennium Challenge account.”
Legarda said that at present, Philippine courts have over 380 cases pending or ongoing relative to trafficking cases. There have been only 18 convictions since the passing of the law in 2003.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is a US$32 Billion industry encompassing as many as 161 countries, where more than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year with 50% believed to be children and 80% women or girls.”
“Let us collaborate and work closely with governments of destination countries through law enforcement and diplomatic channels in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders.”
“Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with foreign countries hiring Filipino workers should clearly indicate that such workers are adequately protected while abroad,” Legarda added.
Legarda asserted that serious efforts are needed to be taken to address the significant level of corruption that allows serious trafficking crimes to continue.
“I am calling on our regional prosecutors, provincial and city prosecutors, their deputies and assistants, state prosecutors and prosecution attorneys to be more aggressive in actively prosecuting and convicting labor and sex trafficking offenders. Let us send an alarm to both local and international syndicates.” Legarda concluded.