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27/06/2011: United States Recognizes PH Government’s Anti-Trafficking Efforts; Upgrades PH to Tier 2 Status

27 June 2011, Washington DC. The United States government has officially recognized the Philippines government’s anti-trafficking efforts, as the 2011 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report unveiled today removes the Philippines from the Tier 2 watch list.

The report recognized the significant efforts being undertaken by the Philippine government to combat trafficking in persons such as the almost 200% increase in convictions of traffickers, including convictions for labor trafficking. It 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 heroes for the year in its TIP report, one of whom is Ms. 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. Ms. Pajarito was flown to Washington, D.C. to personally receive the accolade from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Under the administration of President Aquino, the Philippine government 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:

  • Strengthening of the InterAgency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT), and for the first time ever, a budget for the IACAT has been included in the FY 2011 appropriations.
  • The government has cracked down heavily on government officials and employees accused of complicity in trafficking, and 18 Philippine government officials have been dismissed for involvement in human trafficking
  • There has been a very substantial increase in government resources to fund and staff anti-trafficking operations
  • Republic Act 10022, which took effect in March of this year, strengthens protection for overseas migrant workers by allowing deployment of Filipinos only to countries with sufficient protection for the rights of migrant workers
  • The Department of Justice has mandated preferential attention to trafficking cases, and the Supreme Court has issued a circular direction judges to prioritize and expedite the disposition of trafficking cases, through continuous hearing dates, and ensure that new cases are resolved within 180 days from arraignment of the accused.
  • As an incentive to prosecutors, the Department of Justice has instituted a program recognizing prosecutors who have secured convictions in trafficking cases. In December, 28 prosecutors were recognized for successful prosecution of trafficking cases

While Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia Jr. expressed his delight over this positive development, he vowed to help continue the fight against human trafficking.  In his report to the Department of Foreign Affairs on this subject, Ambassador Cuisia also pledged the Philippine Embassy’s steadfast support for the government’s intensified efforts in combating this scourge.  END