As the country hosted the 20th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) on Thursday, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año called for strong collaboration among the members nations in the face of “growing challenges and new forms of crime emerging out of this pandemic.’’
As part of the unified quest to fully defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, the DILG said the SOMTC event tackled trafficking in persons and other areas of regional cooperation.
Año noted that trafficking in persons are now being transacted online that necessitates the coordinated efforts of various nations to combat this problem.
Unlike the usual face-to-face meetings in the previous years, the SOMTC country representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam met virtually for the very first time.
Año pointed out that the worldwide disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 virus were quickly exploited by some criminal groups as an opportunity to bring their illegal activities online.
He warned the public particularly those who kill time in social media sites online like Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram to be cautious in sharing personal information as these can be used by the criminal groups to do cyber scams, fraud, disinformation, and other cyber-enabled crimes.
DILG Undersecretary and SOMTC Philippines Leader Bernardo C. Florece, Jr. is hopeful that this first-ever virtual meeting will be constructive and meaningful in covering all aspects of transnational crime including terrorism, trafficking in persons, cybercrime, illicit drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, international economic crime, sea piracy, sea robbery, and illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber.
“To win the war against transnational crimes at this trying time of global crisis, we must closely monitor opportunities where criminal organizations may seek to gain profit,” Florece said.
Along with the implementation of health measures, Florece said there is a need to enforce the law and harness the power of mass and social media in order to elicit support from other sectors in raising awareness and security to protect the vulnerable sectors especially women and children.
The 20th SOMTC is a collaborative effort of the DILG as the SOMTC Philippines Leader and other relevant agencies of the government with the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime as SOMTC Philippines Secretariat.
The other members of the Philippine delegation are the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police, among others.