Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said during the IACAT advocacy campaign launch, he would confront human trafficking with the same intensity as that of drug trafficking cases. “In my book, I have placed illegal recruiters on the level of drug traffickers. It has the same effect to society.”

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – Authorities and advocates admitted much are still to be done to address human trafficking in the country.

Speaking during the launch of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) 2013 advocacy campaign Monday,  Regional State Prosecutor Antonio Arellano said the Philippine status remains at a critical tier 2 status since 2011 by the US State Department’s Trafficking in Person’s Report.

The Department’s 2013 report said despite efforts by the Department of Justice, the country “did not 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 and convictions remained disproportionately low for the size of the problem.”

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

In Davao region since 2003 to present, only 58 cases on trafficking had been filed in court, only six convictions, 13 were dismissed and 12 were archived.  There are 26 cases pending in court.

Assistant Regional Prosecutor Barbara Mae Flores said the low number of cases is due to lack of information and education to the public on this issue, and usually victims are afraid to come out against traffickers.

Arellano said they had formed a task force to focus on these cases. “Hopefully we can have more convictions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said during the IACAT activity, he will confront human trafficking with the same intensity that he does against drug trafficking.

“In my book, I have placed illegal recruiters on the level of drug traffickers. It has the same effect to society,” said Duterte.

Duterte reminded the village chiefs that intervention is one of their functions of village officials. He said that as the city’s population is nearing three million, they must do their part.

The mayor made it “mandatory” for barangay (village) captains to “do police work” in their barangays.

“Report immediately or arrest immediately anybody recruiting women and children,” said Duterte.

Meanwhile, children’s advocates who were also part of the IACAT pointed out that there is lack of systematic data on trafficked persons.

“There have been attempts and proposals but these haven’t met success,” said Bernard Mondragon of the nongovernmental Child Alert.

Mondragon added that what is “appalling” is that victims of trafficking have become younger, that there “are now girls ranging from 13-17 years old. The girls are victims of sexual exploitation, while boys are subject to forced labor.”

In their experience in the surveillance and monitoring, Mondragon said corruption within authorities have hindered their campaign.

Prosecutor Arellano said addressing poverty lessens the people’s vulnerability to trafficking.

“For as long as the problem of poverty is there, there will always be the least of our people who would be vulnerable to human exploitation such as the modern kind of slavery like human trafficking.” (John Rizle Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

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