Senator Christopher “Bong” Go commended the recent signing of Republic Act (RA) 11862 expanding the anti-human trafficking law and allowing a more speedy prosecution of human trafficking cases.
A co-author and co-sponsor of the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022”, Go had early on expressed his grave concern over the reported trafficking of some Filipinos abroad.
Go is chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee in the 18th Congress.
Last year, he helped in the repatriation of some Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Syria who fell victim to trafficking and were abused by their employers.
The new law gives law enforcers additional capabilities to pursue human traffickers, especially when the violations entail Internet and digital media use.
A law enforcement official may, upon a written order from the Regional Trial Court (RTC), track, intercept, view, monitor surveil, listen to, and record involving at least one person charged with, suspected or reasonably believed to have committed violations under the expanded anti-trafficking law with the use of any mode, form, kind, or type of electronic or intercepting devices, any communications, information or messages, including procurement of content data transmitted by means of a computer system, or with the use of any other suitable ways and means.
Such court order, however, will not be required when the victim is a child and the offense involves the use of computer systems and digital platforms.
The law also makes accountable internet intermediaries, internet cafes and hotspots including establishments offering Wi-Fi access to the public, and financial intermediates, who shall knowingly or by gross negligence allow their respective infrastructure, facilities, or services to be used for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.
It also provides for additional circumstances when the crime shall be elevated to qualified trafficking, such as when the unlawful act is committed during a crisis, a public health concern, this includes a pandemic, a disaster, a humanitarian conflict or emergency situation, or when the trafficked person is a survivor of a disaster or a human-induced conflict.
Among others, the crime is also qualified when the trafficked person is a person with disability or is a member of an indigineous community or religious minority, when the crime has resulted in pregnancy or the trafficked person suffered mental or emotional disorder, and when the act is committed by or through the use of any computer system.
Finally, the Act mandates law enforcement agencies to immediately initiate investigation and counter-trafficking-intelligence gathering on its own instance or within 10 days after receiving a report, statement affidavit from the victims of trafficking, migrant workers or their families, internet intermediaries, and other persons who have personal knowledge about possible violations of the law.
These agencies are also tasked to initiate bilateral or multilateral agreements with other states to allow foreign internet intermediaries to share possible investigation data necessary for the prosecution of cases, provided that the right to privacy of the victims and their families are respected and protected in all instances.
Meanwhile, Go assured that the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, or IACAT, is continuously working with victims of trafficking cases so appropriate charges can be filed against the perpetrators.
The IACAT launched the digitized Integrated Case Management System in 2020 to manage and ensure coordinated government action against the trafficking of OFWs.
To help prevent instances of human trafficking, especially among Filipino migrant workers, Go also pushed for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) No. 2234, which is the Senate version of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Act. It is a consolidated version of an earlier bill he introduced to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.
The DMW will operate as a one-stop shop for both documented and undocumented OFWs, rendering government services from pre-employment to employment and reintegration. It is also responsible for regulating private recruiting firms in order to safeguard the safety of migrant workers.