MARY Jane Veloso’s case should serve as a rude awakening for government to realize that a lot still needs to be done to combat human trafficking in the country, a lawmaker said Friday.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines is still classified in Tier 2 on the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report that was released in June 2014.
This, Marcos said, despite the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
Veloso was convicted and sentenced to death for bringing more than two kilos of heroin into Indonesia. She was set to die by firing squad on April 28 but got a last-minute reprieve to allow her to testify against a suspected human trafficker.
The temporary reprieve came after Ma. Cristina Sergio, the woman who reportedly recruited her to work as domestic helper abroad and tricked her into carrying the illegal drugs to Indonesia, surrendered to Philippine authorities.
Marcos noted that aside from Veloso, there are other Filipinos that have been victimized by human trafficking syndicates operating in the country.
That is why there is a need for the government to strengthen its campaign against human trafficking, he said.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Filipino victims of human trafficking totaled 1,135 in 2013.
Marcos said there is an urgent need to review the law on anti-trafficking in persons as well as the performance of the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT).
“We need to revisit our anti-trafficking in persons law to find out if we need to improve its provisions, and review the IACAT performance to determine if it’s in the side of implementation where our efforts are lacking,” Marcos said.
The IACAT is the body created by law to coordinate and monitor the implementation of RA. 9208. It is composed of the secretaries from the different government departments headed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as chairperson and co-chairperson, respectively.
Based on the AICAT record, the council was able to help convict 204 individuals for human trafficking from 2005 to 2015.
However, despite its efforts, the Philippines remained in Tier 2 classification on human trafficking, which means that the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards under the US Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
“Tier 1” countries are those whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, while “Tier 2” countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to comply.
“Tier 3” countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Marcos noted that while the TIP recognized the Philippine government’s efforts to prosecute sex and labor trafficking offenses and to impose stringent punishments on convicted sex traffickers, “it did not make progress in convicting labor traffickers and its overall number of convictions remained low compared to the size of the problem.”