Expanding the Anti-Trafficking Law-A A +A
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill, which amends Republic Act (RA) No. 9208, known as "Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003."
House Bill 6339, authored principally by Rep. Pryde Henry Teves (3rd District, Negros Oriental), strengthens the mechanisms for the protection and support of victims by further enumerating, specifying and defining concerns and policies of trafficking in persons as prescribed under the present law.
Teves said the bill defines trafficking in persons any act of recruiting, obtaining, harboring, maintaining, offering, providing, transporting or transferring any natural person with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders.
Teves said any act of intimidation, threats, use of force, deceit, servitude and/or forced labor, abduction, bondage from debts, abuse of power, sexual exploitation, among others are elements of trafficking in persons.
"One of the key provisions of the bill considers tampering, concealing or destruction of evidence or to influence witnesses, or utilizing an office to impede an investigation or prosecution in trafficking as grave offenses," Teves said.
The bill protects trafficked victims by ensuring confidentiality or concealment of identity and mandates law enforcement agencies to immediately initiate investigation and counter-trafficking-intelligence gathering upon receipts of statements or affidavits from victims of trafficking, migrant workers, or their families who are in possession of knowledge or information about trafficking in persons cases.
The measure further provides that cases involving trafficking in persons should not be dismissed based on the affidavit of desistance executed by the victims or their parents or legal guardians and directs public and private prosecutors to oppose and manifest objections to motions for dismissal.
The bill imposes the penalty of 15 years of imprisonment and a fine of not more than P1 million to any person found guilty of committing trafficking in persons and provides a 20-year prescriptive period for cases involving minor victims of trafficking.
Another provision of the bill calls for the establishment of a central database for trafficking cases and concerns as well as it authorizing law enforcement agencies to hold in custody by issuing an interim protection order, any person on a mere suspicion that he/she is a victim of trafficking.
The co-authors of the bill are Reps. Susan A. Yap (2nd District, Tarlac), Emmanuel Pacquiao (Sarangani), and Mel Senen S. Sarmiento (1st District, Western Samar).
The monitoring system put in place by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) has resulted in the speedy resolution of human trafficking cases, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said today in Rome.
Binay, Chairman Emeritus of the Iacat and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Concerns said a total of 16 persons were convicted for human trafficking-related violations in nine separate cases since January.
“This brings to 44 the number of human trafficking convictions under President Noynoy Aquino’s administration, with 58 persons convicted,” the Vice President said. The anti-trafficking czar said the IACAT is closely monitoring all pending human trafficking-related cases to ensure “a timely conviction of the perpetrators.” “We are focusing on following through with the cases until a sentenced is passed. It’s not enough that we file cases against these human trafficking syndicates, we have to make sure that those involved are put behind bars,” he said. "We expect more convictions in the coming months."
Binay said that 44 human trafficking convictions two years into President Aquino’s term is a “far cry from the 29 convictions the previous administration acquired from 2005 to June 2010.” The Philippines has retained its Tier 2 status in the recently recently-released Global Trafficking in Persons Report (GTIP) of the United States Department of State. It was previously in the Tier 2 Watch List status.
The annual GTIP report classifies countries into “tiers” based on whether or not they meet the standards set by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). “Even before the release of the GTIP report, I had already instructed the IACAT to monitor the cases we filed.” Binay said. Among the recommendations in the GTIP report was the need to “address the significant backlog of trafficking cases by developing mechanisms to track and monitor the status of cases filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ).” The report also recommended that the government conduct “immediate and rigorous” investigations of public officials involved in trafficking activities. The DOJ has previously filed show cause notices to 14 Bureau of Immigration personnel for their alleged involvement for their alleged involvement in the illegal smuggling of Filipinos to foreign destinations, including war-torn Syria.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 22, 2012.