Country still Tier 1, but lacks convictions in trafficking

Published by rudy Date posted on July 3, 2021

(The Philippine Star), 3 Jul 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines continues to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, but failed to “convict any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes” and “did not vigorously investigate labor trafficking crimes,” the US State Department said in a report.

The country remains in the Tier 1 classification in the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) released by the State Department yesterday.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the report said.

These efforts, the report added, included prosecuting more traffickers than the previous reporting period, including significantly more defendants charged with using child soldiers and sentencing the majority of convicted traffickers to significant prison terms.

It also noted the increased number of prosecutors assigned to the country’s anti-trafficking task forces as well as of staff for its anti-trafficking coordination body.

The report also cited the government’s opening of a specialized shelter and one-stop service center in Manila that provided assistance to more than 1,000 victims.

“Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not convict any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes and did not vigorously investigate labor trafficking crimes that occurred within the Philippines or provide training to labor inspectors on the indicators of trafficking,” the report said.

“The government also identified fewer victims than the previous reporting period and resources for law enforcement and specialized services for victims remained inadequate,” it added.

The report noted the country’s lack of a centralized database tracking illegal recruitment and human trafficking, which it said continued to hamper the government’s efforts to prevent trafficking and hold traffickers accountable.

“The labor inspectorate was underfunded and understaffed, and the government did not report providing training for labor inspectors to identify indicators of trafficking, which may have impeded the government’s ability to identify potential cases of forced labor,” it said.

The following were among the recommendations stated by the US State Department in the report: increase efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict complicit officials and labor traffickers; strengthen the capacity of local government units to provide reintegration services for trafficking survivors, including trauma-informed care, job training and in-country employment.

It also urged the Philippines to provide increased support to government and non-government organization programs that provide specialized care for trafficking victims, including child victims of online sexual exploitation.

The report said traffickers fraudulently recruited dozens of Filipino domestic workers to work in the United Arab Emirates but instead transported them to Damascus for forced domestic work.

It said traffickers lure children from remote areas of Mindanao and other regions then sell them to employment sponsors who exploit them.

“Traffickers also use student and intern exchange programs, and fake childcare positions as well as porous maritime borders to circumvent the Philippine government and destination countries’ regulatory frameworks for foreign workers and evade detection,” it said.

The report said forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women and children within the country remain a significant problem.

Traffickers exploit Chinese and other Asian women in commercial sex in locations near offshore gaming operations that cater to Chinese nationals, it said.

The report said sex trafficking also occurs in tourist destinations, such as Boracay, Angeles City, Pampanga; Olongapo City; Puerto Galera and Surigao, “where there is a high demand for commercial sex acts.”

The report identified Iligan, Lapu-Lapu, Pampanga, Quezon City, Malabon, Pasig, Taguig and Caloocan as hotspots for online sexual exploitation of children.

“Reports cited a nearly 265 percent increase in unconfirmed reports of online child sexual abuse during the pandemic,” it said.

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