Monday, October 18, 2010

Statement Affirming Recent IACAT Anti-Trafficking Efforts

The Philippine Star
October 18, 2010

Human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) commends the Philippines Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) on its recent efforts to fight human trafficking in the Philippines.

When IJM offices in the Philippines began collaborating with local law enforcement to combat the trafficking of children into the sex trade in 2003, results were initially slow in coming due to several factors - including corruption and the low priority placed on the issue. Today, IJM is encouraged that the current administration under President Benigno Aquino III has made rooting out corruption and fighting human trafficking top priorities. To those ends, the administration has taken initial steps to eradicate corruption in its anti-trafficking response, starting with the Bureau of Immigration. Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima has promised to prioritize implementation of Republic Act No. 9208, including revitalizing the critical functions of IACAT in monitoring and coordinating efforts of the justice system to secure justice for victims of trafficking and protection for the vulnerable.

“We encourage the Aquino administration to continue to prioritize anti-trafficking efforts, to boldly push forward with aggressive anti-trafficking law enforcement and prosecution, and take strong and swift action against any corruption encountered,” said IJM Field Offfice Director in Cebu Andrey Sawchenko. "IJM condemns political interference in anti-trafficking prosecutions - particularly involving high-level suspects - as this prevents justice from being achieved for past, present and future victims."

In 2010 - for the second year in a row - the Philippines was placed on the “Tier II Watchlist” of the U.S. Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, putting $700 million of U.S. foreign aid in jeopardy if no significant improvement is made to meet international anti-trafficking standards. The efforts of IACAT in monitoring and coordinating the government’s response are of utmost importance to protecting society’s most vulnerable members and in enhancing international perception of the Philippines as a place where traffickers cannot get away with selling children.

IJM would be encouraged to see IACAT and its member agencies launch a strong, clear and continuous mandate for aggressive anti-trafficking action through dedicated, funded law enforcement units, and coordination with the Office of the Supreme Court Administrator to fast-track and closely monitor anti-trafficking prosecutions. Such steps would protect those being victimized today and provide a foundation for long-lasting efforts to eradicate human trafficking in the Philippines.

International Justice Mission is an international human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. In the Philippines, IJM works with the Department of Justice, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine National Police and other IACAT member agencies to prosecute traffickers and perpetrators of sexual violence and promote a functioning public justice system.


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