Manila, Philippines – The Philippines has been removed from the Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report released this week by the US State Department. The annual report tracks the progress of countries around the world in their efforts and policies to cut down on human trafficking. The Philippines has been identified as a source, destination and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.
For the past two years, the Philippines was tagged as “Tier 2 — Watch List”, a rating which meant that the government had failed to show evidence of trying to meet minimum standards set out in the internationally recognized Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Another Watch List rating would have meant the withdrawal of at least $500 million dollar worth of non-humanitarian aid from the US government.
Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, executive director of the Visayan Forum (VF), an anti-trafficking NGO says that the upgrade is a direct result of the government’s aggressive efforts to expedite the resolution of trafficking cases within 180 days after arraignment. “Within one year, there were 25 trafficking convictions, almost twice the total number of convictions during the past seven years.” “This is proof that with serious political will, through the allocation of budget and personnel, and vigorous partnership with NGOS to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims, we can win the war against trafficking,” Oebanda added.
In December 2010, Congress appropriated $550,000 in the 2011 national budget to fund, for the first time, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s anti-trafficking programs.
Ruby Ramores, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) programme officer said, “It is truly a relief. A consistent collaborative effort across all government agencies is needed to ensure that we stay off the watch list.” According to Ramores, the government and NGOs should work together to address the remaining challenges such as the need to sharpen the provisions of R.A. 9208 known as the anti-trafficking law such as the confidentiality clause which right now applies both the victims and the traffickers.
Filipina Honored as Trafficking in Persons 2011 Hero
In related news, Darlene Pajarito, assistant city prosecutor in Zamboanga City was cited by the US State Department as a 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero. Pajarito secured the Philippines’ first sex trafficking conviction in 2005 and the first labor trafficking conviction in 2011. Pajarito has secured more convictions in Zamboanga than have been handed down in any other Philippine city and is recognized as one of the most formidable anti-trafficking advocates in the country.
Each year, the US State Department honors individuals around the world who are dedicated to ending trafficking by protecting victims, punishing offenders and increasing awareness about this modern day form of slavery.