PH courts weaken anti-trafficking efforts

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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For the second straight year, the Philippines fails to get a higher anti-trafficking rating from the US

MODERN-DAY SLAVERY. The US says the Philippines barely improved in fighting human trafficking. File photo from Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has barely improved in fighting sex slavery, forced labor, and other forms of human trafficking mostly due to its weak justice system, the United States said Thursday, June 20.

Because of this, for the second straight year, the Philippines failed to get a higher anti-trafficking rating from the US. In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which is a basis for granting aid, the US State Department retained the Philippines’ Tier 2 rating.

The Tier 2 rating means “the government of the Philippines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”

The US said the Philippines did the following to fight human trafficking:

  • Retained its $1.2-M funding for the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking;

  • Continued to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies;

  • Undertook “notable efforts” to prevent the trafficking of migrant workers and to protect Filipino trafficking victims overseas; and

  • Increased its funds and personnel to fight human trafficking

“It did not, however, make significant progress in addressing the underlying weaknesses in its judicial system, which stymied efforts to hold trafficking offenders accountable, and the overall number of prosecutions remained proportionally low for the size of the problem,” the US said.

It said the problem worsens because of “the excessive length of trials and lack of public prosecutors dedicated to trafficking cases.” It also cited “rampant corruption at all levels.”

Fewer convictions

Based on data it gathered, the US said the Philippines convicted 24 traffickers in the past year – from 29 when it released its 2012 report.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Filipino children, some of whom fall prey to pedophiles worldwide, campaign against the sex trade. File photo from AFP

The number of convictions is key to improving the Philippines’ anti-trafficking rating.

In 2011, when the Philippines’ rating first rose to Tier 2, the US cited an increase in convictions over human trafficking. This was after the Philippines languished in the Tier 2 watch list, a lower ranking, from 2004 to 2010.

The US said the Philippines should, among other things:

  • Investigate, prosecute, and convict more traffickers;

  • Develop ways to track and monitor the status of trafficking cases filed, to address the “significant backlog” of cases; and

  • Ensure accountability among officials who fail to address human trafficking

Incidentally, the report comes as 3 embassy staff face accusations of sex abuse. The government has ordered the alleged sex “predators” to come home to face investigation. (Read: DFA orders embassy staff to come home.)

Unlike in previous years, also facing investigation is the Visayan Forum, a top non-government organization against human trafficking. A US agency has accused the Visayan Forum of fraud, even as the US previously named it a “hero” against the $32-B global scourge. (Read: Visayan Forum: From U.S. hero to foe.) –


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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email