DOJ-SC set to sign agreement to bolster fight vs. trafficking in persons – Usec. Villar

Published April 30, 2021, 11:01 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Supreme Court (SC) are set to sign an agreement for closer coordination to address effectively cases involving trafficking in persons (TIP).

DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, the undersecretary-in-charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), disclosed the signing of the agreement during the final dialogue of the United States-Philippines Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership held virtually last Thursday, April 29.

“To spur further commitment among the key pillars of the criminal justice system in crafting and utilizing better tools and innovative interventions to human trafficking, the IACAT, in partnership with the Supreme Court Office of the Court Administrator (SC-OCA) has been conducting Focus Group Discussions (FGD) since 2017 to increase awareness among judges, court personnel, and prosecutors on the importance of victim-sensitive handling of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases,” Villar said in a statement.

She said that in 2020 the Justice Systems Coordination Mechanism (JSCM) project was launched and continued the conduct of FGDs online through the support of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Counter Trafficking Program, and in coordination with the SC-OCA, SC Project Management Office and the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA).

There had been four FGDs since last year with another one this May, she said.

Villar explained that the DOJ-SC agreement is part of IACAT efforts to maintain the Philippines’s Tier 1 ranking in the US Trafficking in Persons Report which the country held since 2016.

“Looking beyond the CPC, there is indeed a great opportunity for the Philippine Government to institutionalize and recalibrate existing efforts, as the 3rd National Strategic Action Plan (Strat Plan) on TIP will also come to a close in 2022,” she said.

“Thus, for the next half of the 2021, the IACAT will be focusing on reviewing and evaluating the highly successful run of the 3rd Strat Plan which served as the main pillar of all government efforts on counter-trafficking and which ensured that the Tier 1 ranking achieved in 2016 was maintained for five consecutive years,” she added.

She pointed out that the fourth strategic action plan will “highlight all the best practices implemented as well as the remaining challenges that needs to be addressed such as the challenge of creating a centralized database and standardized data collection for trafficking in persons cases.”

“Likewise, the new stratplan will take into special consideration other forms of child labor trafficking as well as sexual exploitation that is not committed online and which may fall under RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) or other laws,” she stressed.