by Evelyn Macairan, Rainier Allan Ronda, Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star), 31 Jul 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has maintained its Tier 1 ranking in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons report of the US State Department for the fifth year in a row, according to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday, highlighting the country’s efforts against human trafficking.
Morente said this means that the country fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
For the past five years, the Philippines had maintained a Tier 1 status that is given by the US State Department.
He said the Philippines has also sustained its efforts to combat the crime.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) records showed that 38,000 travelers were barred from leaving the country in 2019, or 16 percent higher than the 33,000 in 2018. The travelers stopped from leaving are believed to be victims of human trafficking.
The BI said more than 400 passengers tagged as potential victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment were referred to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) of the Department of Justice. BI is an attached agency of the justice department.
In the same development, Morente said that its campaign against human trafficking will continue while the country is battling the coronavirus pandemic.
He said he has directed bureau personnel to be vigilant and prepare to conduct stricter screening of departing passengers now that the government eyes less restrictions on outbound travel of Filipinos.
Despite the quarantine restrictions brought about by COVID-19, IACAT said they still managed to achieve 33 convictions of accused in trafficking in persons (TIP) during the first half of the year.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar showed that from January to June of this year, they recorded 33 TIP convictions as part of the data presented during yesterday’s observance of “World Day Against Trafficking” with this year’s theme “Isang Bayan, Isang Panindigan Laban sa Trafficking ng Mamamayan.”
Villar, also the IACAT undersecretary-in-charge, said the 33 convictions are almost 47 percent of the total number of 76 convictions recorded in the whole of 2019. Their highest number of convictions was 122 in 2018.
“This is considering still that half (of the year) we were under community quarantine, meaning there was a time that there weren’t any trials,” she said.
Luzon, including Metro Manila, was placed under enhanced community quarantine last March 16 and the restrictions were later imposed, in varying levels, nationwide.
The Supreme Court (SC) at the start of the community quarantine also ordered the closure of courts to observe physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Villar said that out of the 560 TIP convictions since 2005, 96 percent were cyber sex-related trafficking, while the remaining four percent covered convictions on labor trafficking.
The IACAT also reported that the five top cities with the most number of human trafficking cases were Manila, Cebu, Angeles, Quezon and Davao.
She added that they were able to obtain many convictions because of plea bargaining agreements with the accused. –