Continued from Part 1
A structural problem
Legislators and migrant groups are now pushing for a review of the said law and an evaluation of the performance of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking considering that human trafficking remains to be a widespread problem. One particular concern is one raised by a recently-filed resolution calling for an inquiry into how many Filipinos, especially those seeking jobs overseas, end up as drug mules and what government is doing to help those who end up jailed, or worse, on death row abroad.
While the government boasts of its supposed breakthroughs in the fight against trafficking (having earned the recognition of being in the ranks of countries “making comparatively strong efforts with limited resource” in the campaign against human trafficking, according to the 2014 edition of the Global Slavery Index), human trafficking is still rampant and operating in record-high levels in the Philippines, Migrante said.
Government data show that the number of victims of human trafficking is conservatively pegged at 300,000 to 400,000. “Many of them migrate to work through legal and illegal means but are later coerced into exploitative conditions, drug trade or white slavery,” according to a Stop the Traffic report in 2013.
Based on the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons Report released on June 2014, the Philippines remains on Tier 2 classification. The US Department of State place each country into one of three tiers based on their government’s efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as found in the Victim of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Tier 2 Countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
It is likewise important to note the that Philippines is a signatory to various international statutes and instrumentalities including the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their families and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, all of which compel our government to address the situation head on.
Furthermore, there are also very few convictions under R.A. 9208. During the last decade, the number of convictions under the said law is at a low 182. The government currently has 17anti-trafficking prosecutors in the Department of Justice and 72 prosecutors in regional Department of Justice offices.
But beyond legal reforms and convictions, there is a need to reassess and address the structural roots of human trafficking. The growing poverty, unemployment and landlessness in our country exponentially increase the vulnerability of women and children to sex and human trafficking. Because of their dire economic situation, many young women are forced into working as entertainers, or worse, being trafficked for sex slavery for their families to survive
“The labor export policy, the government program that systematically and aggressively peddles the cheap labor of our Filipino workers abroad, has become more entrenched and institutionalized, especially under the Aquino administration,” Migrante Partylist said. “The government’s labor export policy is the worst form of state-sponsored human trafficking of our Filipino workers,” the group said.