Anti-wiretap law hampering fight vs sex traffickers, says justice official

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2020 08:21 PM

MANILA - Investigators probing prostitution dens and human trafficking activities should be allowed to monitor private conversations of suspects, a justice department official said on Tuesday, after a Senate panel found that chat groups are now being used to advertise prostitution.

Lawmakers should consider relaxing provisions of the Anti-Wiretapping Law to help authorities gain leads on sex traffickers in the country, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.

"Most of the recruitment happens online, through social media or through chat apps which we have no access to," she said.

Operatives currently have to secure a court order before they can be exempted from the Anti-Wiretapping Law, which is meant to protect the rights of private citizens, she said.

The Senate panel will consider Aglipay-Villar's suggestion alongside other calls to regulate the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO), an industry being blamed for the proliferation of Chinese prostitutes and clients in the country, Committee chair Risa Hontiveros told reporters.

"The committee will act on that recommendation based both sa human rights, civil rights and effective law enforcement para sa protection ng mga babae," she said.

"'Yong mga batas natin, kailangan mag-evolve to address the changing nature of the crimes of trafficking and prostitution," she said.

The Senate panel earlier found that Chinese-run prostitution dens have been pimping Filipina teens and foreign sex workers through chat apps.

Sex traffickers, who cater primarily to Chinese nationals, have been using food-related codes to evade censorship in China, a probe showed.

Hontiveros said a second hearing would be held to find out if the POGO industry's economic benefits justify the social costs to the country.