The Office of the Vice President (OVP) assisted 1,588 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in 2014, a year when the Philippines secured the highest number of convictions of human traffickers.
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday said his office extended assistance to OFWs and their families on their requests for repatriation; salary and benefits claims; legal and monetary assistance for detained OFWs; and grievances against employers, recruiters and agents.
“We will continue and intensify our efforts to assist our OFWs and their families, especially in times of need. I would like to commend the staff of our embassies abroad and the other concerned government agencies who were partners of the OVP in aiding our fellow Filipinos,” he added.
Binay noted that the government won the most number of human trafficking-related cases in 2014 through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), which he heads as chairman emeritus.
He said 52 persons were convicted in 49 cases, up from last year’s 37 convictions.
Binay added that he hopes the upward trend in convictions will continue as he urged victims to file and pursue cases against those who have been apprehended for trafficking.
“I am optimistic that we will secure more convictions next year. And I urge all victims of human trafficking to file cases against those who abused you, and for those who have already filed cases to pursue your complaint until these unscrupulous individuals are convicted and put behind bars,” he said.
“Rest assured that the government will exert all efforts to assist and protect you while the cases are being heard,” the Vice President added.
The Philippine government was also recognized as the top country in Asia in terms of government response in the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI), earning a BB rating, which means that “(t)he government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short-term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.”
The GSI is an annual report released by the Walkfree Foundation, an Australian-based human rights organization dedicated to ending modern-day slavery. It has been dubbed as the most accurate and comprehensive measure of modern slavery, which includes trafficking in persons and forced labor.
The Philippines also retained its Tier 2 status in the United States Department of State’s annual Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Report, a rank it held since 2011.
While he was pleased with the country’s performance in GTIP Report, Binay said the Philippines can improve its efforts to curb human trafficking to attain Tier 1 status.
Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet the minimum requirements of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant efforts to do so, while those in Tier 1 status are fully compliant with the TVPA.
Binay said the OVP also helped repatriate the remains of Raquel Escudero, a household worker in Kuwait who died of a brain aneurysm.
Escudero was repatriated to the Philippines on January 21.
Jose Escudero, Racquel’s father, sought the Vice President’s help when he failed to get any response from the government agencies he first approached.
The OVP called the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to ask about the case. The embassy, through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/OWWA, responded through email and provided information, including medical reports on Raquel’s medical condition.
Binay’s staff accompanied Raquel’s father, sister and daughter to the airport to claim Raquel’s body. They were later transported to their home in General Trias, Cavite, through an ambulance provided by Makati Rescue.
The OVP was also involved in the repatriation of Imelda Austria, who was killed when she was crossing a street in Macau. She had just attended a walkathon organized by the Iglesia Ni Cristo to raise funds for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda when the accident happened.
Austria’s remains were repatriated on March 8.
Binay said he learned about Austria’s case after it was referred to his office by the Central Luzon TV36 news agency. Austria’s family resides in Porac, Pampanga.
“After I learned about Mrs. Austria’s case, I instructed my staff to contact her husband and assist him in coordinating with the proper agencies so that her remains could be sent home,” he added.