Second of three parts
In the wake of Hong Kong’s plans to impose sanctions on the Philippines for failing to apologize for the August 2010 hostage-taking in Manila, the Vice President asked Hong Kong authorities to spare OFWs.
Binay made the appeal upon receiving news of the declaration that starting February 5, 2014, Filipino officials and diplomats would no longer be able to enter Hong Kong without a visa.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had announced the “first phase of sanctions” against the Philippines, saying the government would consider more sanctions in efforts to secure an apology from the Philippine government.
“It will definitely hurt our OFWs financially because they will need to pay for the visa. The payment will be deducted from the money they should be sending their families,” the Vice President said then.
He also appealed to Malaysian authorities to ensure humane treatment of OFWs amid Malaysia’s crackdown on illegal migrant workers.
“Sana po naman ay hindi manakit. Kung may kasalanan man ay parusahan pero ‘wag saktan [I hope that the OFWs will not be harmed. If they have done wrong, they should be punished, not harmed],” Binay said then.
This 2014, the government, through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) headed by the Vice President as chairman emeritus, has secured convictions in 49 human trafficking-related cases, with 52 persons convicted. This is a significant increase compared to last year’s 27 cases won with 37 persons convicted.
Moreover, for the fourth consecutive year, the Philippines was given Tier 2 status in the Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Report in 2014.
While he was pleased with the country’s consistent performance in GTIP Report, the Vice President said the Philippines could still improve on its efforts to curb human trafficking to attain Tier 1 status.
Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet minimum requirements of the United States 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.
The Philippine government was also recognized as the top country in Asia in terms of government response in the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI).
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.
“On behalf of the member-agencies of the IACAT and our partner non-government organizations, I wish to thank the Walkfree Foundation for acknowledging our efforts to stamp out human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the country,” Binay said.
Countries are given rankings from a highest possible, AAA, to the lowest, D.
The Philippines was given 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.”
Aside from being ranked first in Asia, the Philippines also ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region, after Australia and New Zealand, and is ranked 29th globally among the 167 countries covered by the GSI.
The report noted that the Philippine government addressed some recommendations made in the 2013 GSI, and “as a result continued to be regional leader in victim support and protection, particularly for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).”
“We have noted the recommendations made in the 2014 GSI, including the need to increase our efforts to ensure monitoring and streamlining of employment conditions of OFWs and protection of their rights. We will also look into establishing a central database to track cases of OFW exploitation,” the Vice President said.
To be continued