Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Philippines removed from US Anti-Trafficking Tier 2 Watchlist

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 29, 2011) - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario has welcomed the removal of the Philippines from the Tier 2 Watchlist in the 2011 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released by Washington.

Del Rosario said the report is a clear-cut recognition of the significant gains made by Philippines in the campaign against human trafficking.

The praised the country's Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking under Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and her deputy Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos, Jr. for their hard work and sustained efforts against human trafficking.

"We are committed to ensuring that our Filipino workers overseas are given full protection and safeguarded from human traffickers. We pledge to further intensify our efforts in addressing this problem," Del Rosario said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said the report recognized the significant efforts being undertaken by the Philippine government to combat trafficking in persons such as the almost 200-percent increase in convictions of traffickers, including convictions for labor trafficking.

With the removal of the Philippines in the Tier 2 Watchlist, the country has been upgraded to Tier Two status, which indicates that progress has been made, thanks to government leadership. Tier Two status removes the immediate threat of sanctions, but does indicate work needs to continue on this global challenge.

Among the measures that the Philippines has embarked this year include increasing efforts to identify trafficking victims in destination countries and pursuing criminal investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, increasing victim shelter resources to be able to assist more victims of human trafficking, and continued assessment and improving methods to address domestic and international labor trafficking.

The report also cited the notable efforts by the Philippine government to address trafficking-related corruption, and the numerous measures and policies to improve institutional responses to human trafficking.

At the State Department ceremonies launching the report, the US government recognized ten people as TIP Report heroes for the year, one of whom is Darlene Pajarito, an assistant city prosecutor in Zamboanga City, who secured the Philippines' first sex trafficking conviction in 2005 and the first labor trafficking conviction in 2011.

With convictions against five traffickers in Zamboanga, she has secured more convictions than have been handed down in any other Philippine city. Pajarito personally received the accolade from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington D.C.

The Philippines has embarked on an intensive "all-of-government" effort to combat trafficking in persons in the areas of protection, prevention and prosecution.

Efforts taken by the Philippine government include the strengthening of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT), with a budget for the IACAT which has been included in the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations; cracking down heavily on government officials and employees accused of complicity in trafficking, and dismissing 18 Philippine government officials for involvement in human trafficking; Substantially increasing government resources to fund and staff anti-trafficking operations; Strengthening protection for overseas migrant workers by allowing deployment of Filipinos only to countries with sufficient protection for the rights of migrant workers,as embodied in the Republic Act 10022, which took effect last March.

And mandated preferential attention by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to trafficking cases, and the issuance of the Supreme Court of a circular directing judges to prioritize and expedite the disposition of trafficking cases, through continuous hearing dates, and ensuring that new cases are resolved within 180 days from arraignment of the accused; and

Instituting a program recognizing prosecutors who have secured convictions in trafficking cases as an incentive to them by the DOJ. In December, 28 prosecutors were recognized for successful prosecution of trafficking cases.

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