Press Release
March 16, 2009

Jinggoy says human trafficking on the rise; seeks amendments to law

Human trafficking victimizing Filipino women and children is on the rise, and a provision in the country's "Anti-Trafficking in Persons law" (Republic Act 9208) itself could be one of the factors aggravating the situation and thus needs amendments.

This was noted by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, in his weekly program "Boses ng Masa" (Voice of the Masses) on DZRH radio.

The law defines trafficking in persons as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons... for the purpose of... exploitation... prostitution... forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs."

In the program, Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said they have monitored an increase in the number of victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking that have sought help from their office as well as from government agencies.

On the other hand, the non-government organization Visayan Forum Foundation said it had assisted 32,000 people since 2003, when the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was made law. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has reported assisting some 6,000 victims of trafficking since 2003.

The Asian Development Bank earlier warned that human trafficking might significantly rise due to the global financial crisis because a larger number of people especially in poor countries would more aggressively seek overseas jobs, and even marriage through the "Mail Order Bride" scheme.

Estrada noted Ople's complaint over Section 7, titled "Confidentiality" of RA 9208, which states, "At any stage of the investigation, prosecution and trial of an offense... (t)he name and personal circumstances of the trafficked person or of the accused, or any other information tending to establish their identities and such circumstances or information shall not be disclosed to the public."

Ople stressed that the rights of both victims and accused in such cases should be respected, But she said because of the confidentiality clause, many accused traffickers, even those that already face a multitude of cases in several courts, have been able to continue with their illegal operation because the public, especially their would-be victims, are not aware of the cases and the identities of the accused.

Estrada said RA 9208 should have more appropriate safeguard against the offenders' simply going around the law, especially the Confidentiality clause. He said he would review the law and propose amendments to it to make it more effective in combating human trafficking.

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