PH officials in human trafficking should be charged, convicted — US State Dept.

Published July 2, 2021, 3:48 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Despite the Philippines’ retention under the Tier 1 category on the 2021 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, the US State Department has issued at least 10 prioritized recommendations and among them is to investigate and convict “complicit officials” involved in the scheme.

(via US State Department)

The 2021 report was prepared by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons under the State Department and was published on its website on Friday, July 2, 2021.

“Officials, including those in diplomatic missions, law enforcement and immigration agencies, and other government entities, allegedly have been complicit in trafficking or allowed traffickers to operate with impunity,” according to the report.

It noted that reports of immigration, police, and other officials complicit in trafficking continued, even as the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking (IACAT) has established a working group to draft guidelines on the identification and monitoring of trafficking-related corruption cases.

IACAT is a body mandated by law to monitor the implementation of laws pertaining to trafficking in person with the Department of Justice sitting as the chair.

Among those cited in the extensive report was the case of a police officer implicated in a cyber-facilitated sex trafficking; the nine Bureau of Immigration officers who facilitated the illegal departure of potential trafficking victims; the 28 Immigration officers who facilitated the exploitation of 44 Filipinas in trafficking in Syria; the corruption charges against 18 immigration officials who allegedly received kickbacks for ensuring the entry of migrant workers at airports and the arrest of a National Bureau of Investigation official who received bribes from the immigration officials for not pursuing criminal charges against them.

The aforementioned cases are either still under investigation or under court proceedings as of the closing of the 2021 human trafficking reporting.

At the time of the reporting, the government did not convict any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes.

The report further said that some corrupt officials allegedly accept bribes to facilitate illegal departures for overseas workers, operate sex trafficking establishments, facilitate the production of fraudulent identity documents, or overlook illegal labor recruiters.

It likewise recalled reports in previous years regarding the conduct of indiscriminate or fake raids on commercial sex establishments by the police to extort money from managers, clients, and victims.

Even reports on some personnel working at Philippine embassies who reportedly withheld back wages procured for their domestic workers, subjected them to domestic servitude, or coerced sexual acts in exchange for government protection services were mentioned in the report. Last February, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. sacked at least five Philippine Embassy officials in Syria for similar allegations.

There were anecdotal reports that police and local government units subjected individuals who had voluntarily surrendered to officials in relation to the government’s anti-drug campaign to forced labor.

The other key recommendations for the Philippines’ fight against trafficking are the following:

*Strengthen the capacity of local government units to provide reintegration services for trafficking survivors, including trauma-informed care, job training, and in-country employment;

*Provide increased support to government and NGO programs that provide specialized care for trafficking victims, including child victims of online sexual exploitation;

Establish and implement a process to ensure systematic and ongoing input from a diverse community of survivors on the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of anti-trafficking policies and programs;

*Increase efforts to ensure victims receive court-ordered restitution and compensation ordered through civil judgments;

*Increase resources for anti-trafficking task forces to conduct timely investigations, coordinated operations, and prosecutions while providing robust victim and witness assistance services;

*Increase efforts to identify and assist labor trafficking victims, including by providing training to law enforcement, social service providers, and labor inspectors on indicators of trafficking;

*Provide increased resources for law enforcement units designated to investigate all forms of trafficking;

*Consistently implement the coordinated interagency response to providing services to returning Filipinos who experienced sex and labor trafficking overseas, and,

Create a central database for information on illegal recruiters and human trafficking cases to facilitate interagency coordination in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting traffickers.