Legarda calls, quizzes gov’t anti-trafficking hotline at DOJ budget hearing

Camille Elemia
Legarda calls, quizzes gov’t anti-trafficking hotline at DOJ budget hearing
Because of the good answers of the call center agent, Senator Loren Legarda vows to increase the budget of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking

MANILA, Philippines – Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda called the hotline of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in front of Department of Justice officials during the DOJ budget hearing on Wednesday, October 3.

Legarda said she wanted to personally test if the IACAT’s “1343 Actionline” –  which is supposed to respond to calls of human trafficking victims and families – is working.

A female call center agent answered Legarda’s call. The senator then quizzed her on what human trafficking is. (READ: Human trafficking 101: What trafficking is all about)

Legarda asked the agent about the last reported trafficking incident. The agent answered that it was a “domestic” call complaining of a local spa that provides “extra services” for customers.

Legarda then asked for the spa’s name and location. The agent asked the senator to hold on for a few minutes to check the details.

She answered the senator and said the spa is located in Las Piñas City. Her response drew laughter from the crowd as DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was there seated across Legarda. The city is the stronghold and hometown of the Villar family.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was seen nodding his head and smiling while listening to the conversation on loudspeaker.

When the agent asked the caller for her name, Legarda gave the name of the senator beside her – Nancy Binay – providing some comic relief during the budget hearing.

Bakit ako (Why me)?” Binay asked in jest.

Legarda quickly corrected herself and revealed her real name. She then informed the agent that she was in a committee hearing with DOJ officials.

Legarda was clearly pleased with the agent’s replies, prompting her to announce that she would increase the IACAT’s budget.

The senator told the agent: “I just tested this hotline if it will be answered…. I’m quite happy with your answers. You’re in a committee hearing. Because of you, I will increase the budget of IACAT. We will make sure there’s budget for information and education. Thank you very much.”

Attendees, mostly DOJ officials and employees, clapped their hands after Legarda’s announcement.

To enforce Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) was created with the secretary of justice as chair and the DSWD secretary as co-chairs.

The law defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.” (READ: Looking back: First anti-trafficking law in Southeast Asia– Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com