By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY—The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and the local Approach Consortium composed of the partnership among the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB), Bidlisiw Foundation, Inc. (BFI), and the Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors (FORGE) are now at the forefront in strengthening the fight against trafficking in persons in the Philippines as it launched the “Strength Counter Trafficking In Persons (CTIP) project here in Cebu on January 27 with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Department of Justice (DOJ)-IACAT deputy executive director Atty. Yvette Coronel has identified four strategic priorities to ensure sustainability in the implementation of the CTIP project and these are under the frameworks of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership (4Ps).
“As we come to the midway point of the IACAT’s current national strategic action plan covering the periods 2017-2022, the IACAT has identified the remaining work that needs to be done,” Coronel said.
Building on the successes of the partnerships created under the Phil-Am Fund managed by the Gerry Roxas Foundation, the IACAT looks forward to this new endeavor which ultimately aims to provide support for local systems to better respond to trafficking.
Under the Prevention pillar, activities and services of the Philippine Government are geared towards capacitating service providers and creating increased community awareness and education regarding human trafficking to enhance detection and reporting to support services.
Coronel added that the key to respond to trafficking incidences in the communities is to recognize and identify potential signs of trafficking because in this kind of crime, “identifying vulnerabilities is paramount.”
There is a greater need to intensify local government units’ engagement and capacitating them on how to respond to trafficking incidences in their communities.
“It is vital then for the IACAT and its member agencies to continually innovate and adopt new measures to bring its anti-trafficking advocacy to the maximum number of people as possible with the resources available and with similar intensity of strengthening the laws and institutions towards effective handling of trafficking in persons,” Coronel said.
The next step, Coronel added is to capacitate your own communities to ensure its resiliency against these types of crimes and this entails not just crafting of ordinances but putting in place preventive mechanisms in areas where it is most crucial.
For areas with ports and seaports, Coronel said it could mean putting up helpdesks in the critical entry and exit points while those that are transit areas it could mean putting up halfway houses or shelters for the victims, she added.
For LGUs that are sources of trafficking victims, it may mean massive information dissemination on the dangers of trafficking. Each community is different, and Coronel hopes that through the Strength CTIP project these will be better realized as more responsive interventions are formulated.
Reintegration programs under the Protection Pillar
Coronel bared that since the passage of the anti-trafficking law, clear progress has been achieved in the area of reintegration programs.
One concrete step is the implementation in 2010 of the guidelines of the National Referral System for the provision of services to trafficked persons during pre-return, return and post-return periods to ensure the recovery and reintegration of the trafficked persons.
These have been supplemented with other tools such as the DSWD Manual on the Recovery and Reintegration of Victims-Survivors of Trafficking, the Guidelines on the Protection of the Rights of Trafficked Children, and the Guidelines on the Protection of the Rights of Trafficked Women, Coronel said.
“We recognize that more efforts will need to focus on the reintegration phase as it is the ultimate measure of the effectiveness of services provided to trafficked persons which may include assistance in restoring the victim’s rights, providing sustainable employment and alternative livelihood,” Coronel added.
The prosecution pillar and law enforcement, the IACAT and other member agencies/organizations have improved their law enforcement operations that resulted in greater number of successful prosecutions.
As of December, 2019, the Philippines has recorded 512 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) convictions against 523 persons, giving justice to 1191 trafficked victims, 686 or 57 percent of whom are minors.
In 2018, the country has the highest number of convictions on TIP cases at 119, convicting 95 perpetrators. It showed a 95 percent increase compared to the previous year. Moreover, 80 percent of the successfully prosecuted TIP cases involved minor victims.