RP gov’t ineffective because of ‘inefficient justice system, endemic corruption’
Gloria fails to curb human trafficking due to graft—US
By Michaela P. del Callar
The United States has retained the Philippines on its tier 2 list of countries that do not comply with international anti-human trafficking laws, citing the Arroyo government’s inability to effectively prosecute trafficking crimes due to an “inefficient judicial system and endemic corruption.”
In its 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report released Wednesday, the US State Department said the Philippines continues to be “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.”
It said a significant number of Filipino men and women who migrate abroad for work are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, North America and Europe.
“Women and children are also trafficked within the Philippines, primarily from rural areas, such as the Visayas and Mindanao, to urban areas for forced labor as domestic workers, and factory workers, and in the drug trade, and for sexual exploitation,” the report said.
The State Department also cited the growing trend on the use of budget airline carriers to transport victims out of the country while traffickers use fake travel documents, falsified permits, and altered birth certificates.
Tier 2 list category means that governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so.
Other countries placed on Tier 2 list are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chile, East Timor, Mongolia and Vietnam.
Although the State Department said the government is “making significant progress to address human trafficking,” it also said the country has failed “to show evidence of progress in convicting trafficking offenders, particularly those responsible for labor trafficking.”
“The Government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” the State Department said. “Therefore, the Philippines is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.”
Despite the increase in the number of trafficking cases filed in court, it lamented that only four trafficking convictions were obtained under the 2003 anti-trafficking law during the reporting period, and there were no reported labor trafficking convictions, despite widespread reports of Filipinos trafficked for forced labor within the country and abroad.
“The number of convictions for sex trafficking offenders is low given the significant scope and magnitude of sex trafficking within the country and to destinations abroad,” it said.
“Achieving more tangible results in convicting trafficking offenders, and in investigating and prosecuting officials complicit in trafficking is essential for the Government of the Philippines to make more progress toward compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” the State Department added.
Corruption among law enforcement agents remained pervasive, and some law enforcement and immigration officers were complicit in trafficking and permitted organized crime groups involved in trafficking to conduct their illegal activities, the State Department stressed.
“It is widely believed that some government officials were directly involved in or profited from trafficking operations within the country,” it noted. “Law enforcement officers often extracted protection money or illegitimate businesses, including brothels, in return for tolerating their operation.”
During the reporting period, there were several reports of immigration officials involved in the trafficking of Filipinos overseas, the State Department said.
“The government conducted investigations during the year into official complicity or involvement in trafficking, but cases were still pending. The government did not prosecute or convict any officials for trafficking-related corruption during the reporting period,” it said.
It also criticized Manila for not making any efforts to reduce the demand for child sex tourism nor it took steps to curb the demand for commercial sex acts in the Philippines, despite the country’s thriving commercial sex industry.
The report recommended that the Philippines should “significantly improve the record of prosecutions, convictions, and punishments for traffickers; disseminate information on the 2003 Philippine anti-trafficking law throughout the country;”
It also said that the government should train law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the use of its anti-trafficking law, and to vigorously investigate and prosecute public officials complicit in trafficking.
A country that fails to make significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons, per US law, receives a “Tier 3” assessment, which could trigger the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance from the United States.
Predictably, Malacañang, reacting to the negative US report on its failure to curb human trafficking claimed that the prosecution of cases involving human trafficking has been accomplished at a 60 percent level in recent years.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that the Palace has activated the government campaigns against human trafficking with the drive focused on Manila, Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga.
“Definitely, we have to advise authorities like the Bureau of Immigration to be on the lookout for such activities. We will not tolerate human trafficking,” Ermita said.
Also in yesterday’s press conference, presidential deputy spokesmanLorelei Fajardo said, “first of all we recognize that human trafficking is a problem. Having said that, we took note of the report. We have made significant accomplisments.”
Fajardo noted that the active presence of an interagency coordinating the efforts on implementing the laws on Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and R.A. No. 9208.
“With 60 percent prosecution in the past years and with the DoJ (Department of Justice) accomplishing this, the government has been working on this (acting on human trafficking)” Fajardo said.
She added that “this (the US state department report) is good wake up call. This can drive us to work for more conviction of violators,” she said.
With Riza Recio