Govt’s efforts against trafficking continue PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 10 May 2015 15:42

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Chairperson, has lauded the recent arrest of Peter Gerald Scully by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD) and NBI-Region 10 even as she warned child pornography syndicates against using the Philippines as a base.

De Lima said the arrest of Scully, an Australian national, with pending arrest warrants and identified to be responsible for the production of a horrifying child sexual abuse and torture video, highlights both the effectiveness and resolve of the government’s intensified campaign against human trafficking.

“Let notice be served to these criminal elements that the days of their child cybersex operation is numbered,” De Lima added.

“Wherever these syndicates are, we will hunt them down and we will bring them to justice,” she said.

De Lima underscored the government “has both the will and the capability to capture these perverted elements”.

She also exhorted victims and witnesses not to be afraid to seek help from anti-human trafficking authorities.

De Lima noted prior to the arrest of Scully, the complaint of two minor girls to the police resulted in the issuance of a warrant of arrest and led to the raid on his house by the composite team of NBI-AHTRAD and NBI-Region 10.

“Law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police and the NBI are mandated to ensure the proper care and assistance of victims. The government will take the extra mile to protect victims and witnesses from human traffickers who employ coercive tactics,” she stressed.

De Lima cited the partnership and alliance of the Philippines with the international community against online child sexual abuse.

She also urged the public to come forward with information on human trafficking activities and to help protect their fellow countrymen from sociopaths who prey on the weak to gain wealth and perverted pleasure from their suffering.

“The Government will never relent in fighting this evil, but it needs the help of a vigilant citizenry,” De Lima said.

The Philippines garnered the top spot in the 2014 edition of the Global Slavery Index, ranking it among countries “making comparatively strong efforts with limited resources” in the campaign against human trafficking.

The second edition of the index ranked the Philippines no. 1 in Asia, no. 3 in Asia-Pacific and no. 29 globally, out of 167 countries, in terms of government’s efforts and programs, especially on the response of the criminal justice system against human trafficking.

De Lima lauded the government’s “frontliners” in the fight against trafficking, saying that the Index is a “clear indication that the country is in the right direction in the bid to eradicate this global menace”.

“The report is something that every Filipino must be proud of and should serve as inspiration to the ‘frontliners’ from the different government agencies to persevere and further improve,” she said.

The 2014 Global Slavery Index was released by Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern day slavery.

The 2013 edition also cited the Philippines’ innovative approach to combat human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

The Index provided a scientific approximation, country by country, of the number of people currently living in modern slavery.

Based on the report, the Philippines acquired a high government response rating (BB), noting that the government has taken significant steps to fight human trafficking.

These include short-term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern-day slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protection for vulnerable sectors.

“This achievement is a result of the integrated approach that the government has been implementing since the advent of the law in 2003,” De Lima said.

“We are honored that the country’s efforts are now being recognized,” she added.

Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente B. Salazar, Undersecretary-in-charge of IACAT, credited the top global rating to the efforts of the public servants, government organizations, local government units, NGO partners, faith-based organizations, and other groups who contributed to the overall efforts of the country in fighting human trafficking.

“We attribute this milestone to the long-standing partnership that has been forged with the various sectors of society in protecting our people from the evils of modern day slavery,” Salazar said.

The Global Slavery Index, according to Walk Free Foundation, is a tool for citizens, non-government organizations (NGOs), businesses, and public officials to understand the size of the problem, existing responses and contributing factors, so they can build sound policies that will end modern day slavery.

The IACAT urged local government units (LGUs) to address the issue of human trafficking head-on, using their respective law-making powers.

As the Philippines’ primary governing body against trafficking in persons, IACAT is asking the local government executives to create an ordinance to localize the implementation of the principal laws against human trafficking.

The ordinance must be based primarily on Republic Act No. 9208, as amended by RA No. 10364, or the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act”.

De Lima said that the creation of such local legislation empowers LGUs to attend to the problem of human trafficking, from the provincial level down to the villages.

This initiative intends to extend the government’s fight against all forms of slavery, forced labor and sexual exploitation to the community level,” she said.

Part of the government’s national strategic plan is to cascade anti-human trafficking activities down to the level of the LGUs by way of local ordinances which will, in effect, provide a localized approach to combat ‘modern day slavery’ as well as provide a continuity of efforts even if local leaders have moved on.

The ordinance must also contain provisions creating a local council against human trafficking.

This Council will serve as the LGUs’ primary unit that will handle issues pertaining trafficking in persons and other related offenses.

The created units by the LGUs can coordinate with IACAT which can provide capacity development trainings on proper prosecution, victim protection, case detection and child and gender sensitive operations.

The local council’s primary function is to formulate a comprehensive and integrated program for the prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons, successful prosecution of offenders, the rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked victims, abused women and children into the mainstream of society.

The LGUs shall have a free reign in finding funding sources for this initiative.

However, the primary source for the activities and programs under the said ordinance may be from the Gender and Development (GAD) budget allocated to all LGUs.

“We recognize that the autonomy of the LGUs, as provided in the Constitution and the Local Government Code, will allow a more efficient enforcement of human trafficking laws and institute measures to protect its citizens, particularly women and children for a progressive, free and prosperous government unit,” De Lima said.

“The government’s resolve is tested again and again by the evils of human trafficking. The national government and the LGUs, acting as a community, may yet be the deterrent for this social ills to prosper,” she added.