Despite the disruption of trials because of the pandemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the country is set to maintain this year the number of convictions in human trafficking cases.
Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay, Villar, the undersecretary-in-charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said on Thursday, July 30, that there have been 33 trafficking in persons convictions from January to June.
“This is considering still that half of the time we were under community quarantine, meaning there was a time (when) there weren’t trials,” she said during an online forum and press conference on the occasion of the World Day Against Trafficking.
“So this is a good number during the (first) half of the year,” Villar pointed out as she pointed out that the Philippines continues to maintain a Tier 1 status in the United States Trafficking in Persons Report from 2016 up to this year.
The undersecretary noted that last year there has been a total of 76 human trafficking convictions.
“We continuously keep on increasing our convictions every year,” Villar said.
The country had the most number of convictions in 2018 with 122 which she cited as “the highest, even in fact, compared to other countries.” Prior to 2018, there were 62 convictions in 2017.
“In that year (2018), we attained a lot of convictions through plea bargaining,” she explained.
Villar said that using plea bargaining or having the accused admit to lesser offenses before the court is “effective in terms of achieving faster convictions.”
“A lot of cases filed but it just get stalled in courts, it takes years and years and years before they get concluded,” she pointed out.
The undersecretary cited that since 2005 up to June this year there has been a total of 560 human trafficking convictions in the country.
Of this number, 96 percent involve sex trafficking including 99 cases of cybersex trafficking; while, four percent involve labor trafficking.
Among those convicted were 25 foreigners and five government officials.
Villar also cited that the 560 cases involve 1,256 victims including 1,175 females, 81 males, and 715 minors.