Trafficking law to cover more offenses

Lawmakers agree to expand the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003 after a congressional bicameral conference committee hearing

TRAFFICKING ON THE RISE Children are silhouetted in front of posters displayed during a prayer for Justice and Protection against Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People in Quezon City suburban Manila on December 12, 2010, as part of the annual observance of International Day against Human Trafficking. AFP Photo/Jay Directo

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly a decade-old, the Philippines’ law against human trafficking may soon cover more offenses after the congressional bicameral conference committee agreed to expand the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003.

Sen Loren Legarda on Tuesday, November 13, said the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Bill will “fill voids in the existing law.” If the President approves this, the new law will expand the list of acts classified as human trafficking, to include the following: 

  • destroying or tampering with evidence

  • influencing witnesses in an investigation

  • using public office to impede an investigation or execute lawful orders

The reconciled version of Senate Bill 2625 and House Bill 6339 will also boost funding for government agencies that fight human trafficking, Legarda said. The bicameral conference committee approved the expanded law in time for the UN International Day against Human Trafficking on December 12. 

“We acknowledge that the problem of human trafficking continues to hound our society, and this is the reason why we need to strengthen the existing law. In the proposed amended version of the law, even acts that shall constitute attempted trafficking in persons will be punishable. Accomplices and accessories to the crime will also be meted their due penalties,” said Legarda, who chairs the subcommittee on anti-trafficking.

The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 outlaws the following acts of trafficking:

  • “to recruit, transport, transfer; harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means… for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude, or debt bondage;”

  • to sell a Filipino woman to a foreign national for marriage “for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading him/her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude, or debt bondage;”

  • to engage in sex tourism;

  • to hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography, or to serve as a conduit for this;

  • “to recruit, hire, adopt, transport, or abduct a person, by means of threat or use of force, fraud, deceit, violence, coercion, or intimidation for the purpose of removal or sale of organs of said person;” and

  • “to recruit, transport, or adopt a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad”

Despite this law, a UN envoy last Friday, November 9, warned that the Philippines has failed to curb human trafficking in recent years.

Compounding the problem, the Philippines’ top human trafficking fighter, Visayan Forum (VF), is now embroiled in a controversy involving the alleged misuse of donations from the United Nations Agency for International Development (USAID). The US agency has suspended funding for VF, in what could be a setback on the Philippines’ anti-human trafficking crusade. – Rappler.com

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