Anti-human trafficking report: Philippines keeps Tier 1, but lacks reporting efforts

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A woman, who is a victim of human trafficking, has her mouth sealed with red adhesive tape and her hands bound with a steel chain.
A woman's mouth is gagged with red adhesive tape and her hands bound with steel chain to illustrate human trafficking. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Philippines has maintained its Tier 1 status in the US Department of State’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report released on Tuesday (July 19).

‘Serious and sustained efforts’ to combat trafficking

According to the report, Tier 1 ranking is given to a government that has made various efforts to resolve the problem of trafficking, in accordance with the standards set by the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity,” the report read.

This effort included identifying and tracking trafficking-related corruption cases, convicting human traffickers to a significant jail term, and putting a significant amount of budget to the inter-agency anti-trafficking council.

The State Department also lauded the establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers, whose prime job is to ensure the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), who are most vulnerable to trafficking.

Reports and data on law enforcement efforts lacking

Although the country has been able to maintain its Tier 1 status since 2016, the Philippines fell short of vigorously reporting and probing labor trafficking crimes and holding erring officials to account, according to the annual report.

“[I]t did not report vigorously investigating labor trafficking crimes that occurred within the Philippines or take adequate steps to investigate and arrest individuals suspected of purchasing commercial sex from trafficking victims, nor did it provide training for labor inspectors on indicators of human trafficking,” the State Department said.

The report also noted fewer anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts than in previous years, with local authorities reporting only 168 anti-trafficking investigations compared with 248 operations and 233 investigations of illegal recruitment in the previous year.

Prosecution of alleged traffickers also went down to 298 compared to 377 prosecutions in 2020, with only 56 traffickers being convicted compared to the previous reporting period’s 73 convictions.

The State Department said that while the country may have increased its victim protection efforts, it lacked a comprehensive mechanism to gather statistics on the total number of victims it identified and assisted.

With this, they have recommended strengthening the capacity of local government units to provide reintegration services for trafficking survivors, increasing governmental support, as well as non-government organizations, in providing specialized care for trafficking victims, among many others.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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