Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said the landmark 100th person convicted for human trafficking underscores the Aquino administration’s determination to eradicate trafficking in the country.
Binay, chairman emeritus of Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said the government’s anti-human trafficking campaign is expected to receive a big boost once Senate Bill No. 2625, or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, is signed into law.
“To date, there have been 100 persons convicted since 2005, with 70 of those under President Noynoy Aquino’s administration. With stronger anti-trafficking laws in place, it will be much easier for us to file more cases and secure more convictions” he said.
He added that for 2012 alone, the IACAT has been able to secure convictions for 28 persons in 17 human trafficking cases.
The anti-trafficking czar lauded the Senate for unanimously approving the measure on its third and final reading.
The Vice President also said with the new law in place, it would be easier for the Philippines to attain Tier 1 classification in the United States’ Global Trafficking in Persons Report.
The annual report of the United States Department of State classifies countries into tiers depending on their compliance to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Protection Act.
“I am thankful that the Senate fully supports our campaign against human trafficking. The enactment of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act would mean greater protection for our kababayans, especially the women, children and our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs),” he added.
Voting 19-0, the Senate passed earlier this week the bill that seeks to strengthen the government’s fight against human trafficking.
The Vice President, who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, commended particularly the inclusion of the crime of attempted trafficking in the proposed law.
He said it will allow the government to become pro-active rather than reactive in eliminating human trafficking cases and prevent OFWs from being abused.
“The current law only allows us to file trafficking charges against perpetrators only after the actual act had been committed. Because of this, our kababayans had to be subjected to abuse first before trafficking charges could be filed,” Binay said.
Binay cited the cases of trafficking of OFWs, saying that if the OFWs were not yet transported abroad, only illegal recruitment charges could be filed against their recruiters.
“Just last month, the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATTF) offloaded 40 would-be victims of human trafficking bound for Malaysia,” he said.
“Illegal recruitment has a significantly lesser punishment compared to human trafficking violations. With the inclusion of attempted trafficking, trafficking charges could be filed against those recruiters with our OFWs not being subjected to abuse,” he said.
Violators of attempted trafficking would be facing a penalty of 15 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1 million.
Trafficking persons currently carry a penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a P1 million fine, while qualified human trafficking violators face life imprisonment and a P2 million fine.
Binay also lauded the plan to remove the confidentiality clause in R.A. 9208 that prohibits the disclosure of the name and personal circumstances of trafficking suspects. The current law bans the disclosure of any details that could lead to the identification of both victim and suspect.
Under Senate Bill No. 2625, the identity of victims of human trafficking will remain private, while information on persons accused of human trafficking will now be made public to warn possible victims.
“The lifting of the confidentiality provision for human trafficking suspects would greatly help in deterring human trafficking acts because we can now warn the public of persons who might victimize them,” the Vice President said.#