Close to 600 persons already convicted of human trafficking – DOJ

Published November 21, 2020, 8:19 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured almost 600 human trafficking convictions for over a decade, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) said.

“While our work has been made more challenging with the events that transpired this year, it does not stop us from adapting and evolving to the demands of the current situation,” DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, who is in-charge of IACAT, said during the week-long virtual summit of the Global Resolve Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) last Wednesday.

Villar revealed that the IACAT, which was created under Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2003, has monitored 593 trafficking convictions.

“As of October, 2020, out of the 593 convictions on trafficking monitored by the IACAT, 179 convictions or 30% have all been handed down thru plea bargain agreements,” she said.

The DOJ spokesperson said “the penalty for these convictions average about 10-15 years.”

Villar said that it was just in December last year that the DOJ laid down guides for prosecutors to explore the use of plea bargaining which has been found to be “an effective tool in hastening the criminal justice system by providing a quicker time frame for getting a conviction without necessarily compromising or diminishing the punishment for the crime.”

The undersecretary said plea bargaining also “lessen the risks of re-traumatization brought about by the stress of appearing in court as a witness – situations that are highly distressing for child victims.”

Meanwhile, Villar said there is “IACAT’s continuing collaboration and partnership with private sector tech and communications companies such as Facebook, Google, Smart, and PLDT.”

“It cannot be denied that the current battleground and the future of the anti-OSEC response lies in the technological landscape,” she stated.

“Thus, their proactive stance in this issue is a welcome development and we hope to deepen this current engagement in the years to come,” Villar added.

The Philippines continues to maintain since 2016 a Tier 1 status in the United States Trafficking in Persons Report.