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Aquino's good news as term ends: PH improves fight vs human trafficking

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III has good news to leave the country as he ended his term, including the Philippines' improved ranking in the fight against human trafficking as cited in a US State Department report.

"There’s no better way to end than have these two pieces of bright news on this cloudy day," Aquino said at his homecoming at Times Street in Quezon City, where he was greeted by around 300 friends and supporters shortly after he left Malacañang on Thursday, June 30.

He recalled a text message he received from Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia two hours before he left the Palace. Cuisia informed him that the Philippines has been up moved to Tier 1 from Tier 2, in the US 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report of the US State Department.

"There are two pieces of good news. Perhaps, I can share this with you. I hope President Duterte doesn’t mind. Our ambassador to America, Joey Cuisia, informs us that we have succeeded in being placed in the Tier 1 level on trafficking," he said.

Under the TIP report, countries in Tier 1 are those that fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Those in Tier 2 are not fully compliant with the TVPA's minimum standards, but significant efforts are being made.

The Philippines was in the Tier 2 Watch List in 2010, the year the Aquino administration assumed office, which put it at risk of being placed in the lowest Tier 3. It managed to bring the Philippines to Tier 2 by 2011, and had been in that level until last year.

Aquino, apparently eager to share another accomplishment of his administration at the end of his term, made the announcement hours ahead of the scheduled news briefing of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was set to unveil the 2016 TIP report at 9 am on June 30 (9 pm, Manila time).

"Secretary of State John Kerry will unveil the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report at 9 am on June 30, 2016, at the Department of State," the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday, June 29.

"As required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the TIP Report assesses government efforts around the world to combat human trafficking. This year’s report, the 16th installment, includes narratives for 188 countries and territories, including the United States," it added.

The other good news, Aquino said, is the nearing release of the ruling of the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, on the Philippines' case against China. It is due to be released on July 12.

Aquino expressed hope that the ruling would favor the Philippines in its dispute with the regional giant in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"We have also been officially informed that the decision on arbitration case will come out on July 12. So we hope that your prayers will continue that there is a successful resolution of this arbitration issue and hopefully that it will pave the way for a real, just solution to the issue of West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea," he said.

Under Aquino as the chief architect of Philippine foreign policy, the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea on January 22, 2013, one of the legacies of his administration. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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

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