Binay cites stricter measures against human trafficking, illegal recruitment

A day after President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III gave his third State of the Nation Address, Vice President Jejomar Binay has come out with his own accomplishment report.

According to a report from his office, Binay has been busy looking out for the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers either by bringing them home or protecting those for deployment.

The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which Binay chairs, has implemented stricter screening of travel documents to make sure OFWs leaving the country have legal papers. Those without proper documentation and visas, or who try to leave “under dubious circumstances”, are offloaded and denied exit, the OVP said.

Immigration officials have also been directed to check the age, educational attainment, and financial capability to travel of travelers who may be victims of human trafficking. The stricter screening was put in place after it was found that one OFW repatriated from Syria was a minor traveling under someone else’s passport.

IACAT, lead agency against human trafficking, has also put up an operations center and an action hotline (1343) where people can report cases of human trafficking. In 2011, the hotline received 7,177 reports, which led to 68 cases being filed against recruiters, and the repatriation 111 trafficking victims.

By 2012, the IACAT has also secured convictions against 58 people in 44 trafficking cases.

Binay also heads the Presidential Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment, which closed down a recruitment agency in May for collecting excessive placement fees.

The task force has also filed 29 illegal recruitment cases against agencies and people who recruited OFWs for work in Syria, which is subject to a government deployment ban.  This came with the issuance of show-cause orders to 25 Immigrations bureau personnel who may have helped smuggle Filipinos to Syria.

Binay said these reforms helped the Philippines maintain its Tier 2 status under the U.S. Global Trafficking in Persons report for 2012. It must be noted, however, that the Philippines has been at Tier 2 since 2001, but was put on a trafficking watch list in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2010. Countries under Tier 2 have made significant efforts to curb human trafficking but have yet to comply with standards set by the U.S. State Department.

Meanwhile, the Vice President has also been busy bringing home stranded OFWs, his office claimed. In March last year, Binay secured permission from Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz-Al Saud to bring home 4,500 Filipinos. Among them were OFWs who were forced to camp at the Hajj Seaport Terminal in Jeddah until the government released P24 million to fly them back to the Philippines.

Binay has also created an OFW Special Concerns Unit under the OVP, which has helped repatriate 22 Filipino workers since 2011.

The OFW Special Concerns Unit helped bring home Alfredo Salmos, who had been waiting to come home since being electrocuted while working in Saudi Arabia in 2010. The OVP coordinated with officials in Jeddah so Salmos could fly home in May, Binay’s office said.

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