By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine and United States governments have reaffirmed their commitment to “doing more” on the issue of combating human trafficking of adults and children.
The commitment was reached in a recent meeting between acting Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Michael Klecheski where both sides pledged to prioritize the fight against human trafficking.
During the meeting, Klecheski credited the Philippine government’s leadership that resulted in a Tier 1 ranking in the 2016 and 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Reports.
The two officials also pledged their continued support for the bilateral Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership, an agreement that seeks to strengthen the response efforts to two types of child trafficking – sexual exploitation of children online and child labor trafficking, and through a victim-centered approach to prosecuting traffickers and ensuring services for child victims. The CPC was signed on April 11, 2017.
As part of their commitment, the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons committed US$3.5 million (PhP 175 million) and the Philippines’ Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT) pledged approximately US$800,000 (PhP 40 million) to meet the four-year CPC partnership’s objectives.
According to the US Embassy, the meeting between Guevarra and Klecheski was the culmination of a week of human trafficking-focused engagements between Philippine government, civil society, and visiting US officials on their continued commitment to prevent abuses, protect victims, and prosecute abusers.
“We are pleased to partner with the Philippines to fight traffickers and build a better future for vulnerable Filipino children,” Klecheski was quoted as saying.
In its 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US government ranked the Philippines under the Tier 1 level, which means the country “fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the US State Department said in the report.
It further said in the report that the Philippine government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers, identifying more victims through proactive screening procedures, and expanding its efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers.
Despite meeting the minimum standards, the report said the Philippines government “did not expand the availability and quality of protection and assistance services for trafficking victims, particularly mental health care and services for male victims.”
“Further, the government did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes or expand its pilot program to address the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts,” it added.