By Louis Bacani/PHILSTAR
“Rampant corruption” in all government levels weakened efforts against human trafficking in the Philippines, which remains non-compliant to international anti-trafficking standards, a United States report recently said.
In the Trafficking in Persons Report 2013 of the US Department of State, the Philippines retained its Tier 2 status, which is given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards but are but are making significant efforts to do so.
“The Philippines is a source country and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” the report said.
It noted that a significant number of Filipino migrants –professionals and domestic workers alike– suffer physical and sexual abuse while human trafficking within the country also remains a significant problem.
“People are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers including Manila, Cebu, the city of Angeles, and increasingly cities in Mindanao, as well as within other urban areas and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerta Galera, and Surigao,” the report explained.
The report said corruption at all levels of government enables traffickers to prosper, who are at times partnered with erring authorities.
Officials in government units and agencies assigned to enforce laws against human trafficking reportedly permitted trafficking offenders to conduct illegal activities, allowed traffickers to escape during raids, extorted bribes, facilitated illegal departures for overseas workers, and accepted payments or sexual services from establishments known to traffic women and children.
“Rampant corruption at all levels enabled traffickers and undermined efforts to combat trafficking,” the report said.
Efforts not enough
The report cited notable efforts from the Philippine government such as amending anti-trafficking measures and the provision of protection to the victims.
However, these efforts still fall short.
“[The Philippines] did not, however, make significant progress in addressing the underlying weaknesses in its judicial system, which stymied efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable,” it said.
Excessive length of trials and lack of public prosecutors dedicated to trafficking cases also continue to limit progress, according to the report.
It recommended the improvement of the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of both labor and sex trafficking offenders and the bolstering of the anti-trafficking training for police recruits, front-line officers, and police investigators.
The report also suggested to increase the funding for anti-trafficking programs within local anti-trafficking member agencies and address the significant backlog of trafficking cases filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and in various local courts.
Binay: Still good news
Vice President Jejomar Binay, Chairman Emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, still welcomed the report as a positive development.
“Being in Tier 2 status means that we are making significant efforts to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” Binay said in a statement
He said the country was in Tier 2 Watch List status during the previous administration, in danger of being placed under Tier 3, which means being included in the list of countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking.
The Vice President explained that the government was able to achieve 39 trafficking-related convictions in a span of 22 months compared to the 29 convictions the previous administration had from 2005 to June 2010.
“[I]n a span of two years, we have exceeded what the previous administration had accomplished in five years,” he said.
“We hope to sustain this consistency and improve upon our efforts to curb trafficking in persons in the country. We have taken note of the recommendations of the U.S. State Department and will act on these at the soonest possible time,” Binay concluded.