PH 'fully meets' standards in measures vs human trafficking: US report

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2019 01:27 PM

Seen in this file photo are women rescued from trafficking by Philippine authorities in February 2016. The women, among them 11 minors, were supposed to be forced into prostitution. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippines has retained the highest status in its compliance with measures against human trafficking, the US State Department said in its just released annual report. 

Manila remains under Tier 1 status in the US Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released on Thursday. Ivanka Trump, advisor to the US President, joined Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at the launch ceremony in Washington.

The country has been in the top tier category since 2016 despite being tagged as a top destination of illicit funding for human trafficking, among other crimes, by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“The Government of the Philippines fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, therefore the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” read the 2019 TIP report.

It recognized the government’s efforts, including the implementation of prosecution procedures “that reduce the potential for further harm to child sex trafficking victims; convicting and punishing traffickers; and robust efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers and to assist those who become victims of trafficking overseas.”

The report cited efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Labor and Employment in assisting 2,591 potential Filipino trafficking victims in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe in 2018. Some 1,476 potential victims were rescued in the preceding reporting period.

The report also recognized the response of the Commission of Filipinos Overseas’ to 3,853 calls and assistance to 9 possible victims.

The TIP report noted that the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration investigated 278 cases of alleged illegal recruitment and recommended 123 cases for filing in the courts. There were 309 reported investigations in 2017. 

The Philippine government also reported 11 convictions of those involved in trafficking, compared to 8 in 2017. 

 US NOTES PH LAPSES

The report also pointed out some lapses in the Philippine government’s efforts, including failing to prosecute trafficking suspects vigorously. 

“[I]t did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes, consistently criminally prosecute labor traffickers, or increase the availability of specialized protection and assistance services for child victims of sex trafficking or services for male victims. Access to mental health services, employment training, and job placement for survivors also remained inadequate,” it stated. 

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the report shows Manila’s “resolute” efforts against trafficking. 

“The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. sustains its cooperation and engagement with US stakeholders in order to communicate our priorities, including the importance with which we consider the role of labor-receiving countries in the fight against human trafficking,” he said in a statement.

The report, released annually by the US Department of State since 2001, is mandated by the US Congress under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

The TVPA identifies minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking applicable to the government of a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims of severe forms of trafficking.

There are four tier categories representing level of compliance with TVPA standards, namely: Tier 1 (full compliance), Tier 2 (no full compliance but making significant efforts to comply with standards); Tier 2 Watchlist (no full compliance and absolute number of victims increasing), and Tier 3 (no full compliance, no significant efforts to comply).