Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phl boosts campaign against human trafficking

The Philippine Star
April 21, 2011
By Edu Punay

MANILA, Philippines - The government has boosted its campaign against human trafficking operations in the country after joining forces with US-based human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM).

In a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed yesterday afternoon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and IJM committed to collaborate in combating trafficking and other violent exploitation of Filipino women and children through intensified rescue of victims and prosecution of perpetrators.

Under the MOA, the IJM would provide assistance to concerned agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, DOJ’s law enforcement arm, in terms of technical, legal and logistic support, capacity-building training, and prosecution of cases.

The non-government organization based in Washington also vowed to train NBI agents and DOJ prosecutors based on an updated manual on anti-human trafficking law enforcement and prosecution.

IJM national director for the Philippines Andrey Sawchenko said the move was part of their group’s commitment “to actively seek the protection of the law for those who most need it.”

“For those who are even now suffering in silence, victimized by traffickers and unable to win their own freedom, well-intentioned words will not be enough. They need rescue. They need security. They need to know that the public justice system will be working on their behalf,” he said.

The DOJ, for its part, vowed to strengthen anti-trafficking operations in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Angeles City in Pampanga - key areas identified to have relatively high rates of trafficking activity.

It is also tasked to prioritize resolution of human trafficking complaints and monitor the cases when they reach the courts. The department and IJM, under the MOA, would coordinate on capacity-building projects.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in her message during the signing of MOA at the DOJ, cited the importance of IJM’s assistance in the government’s campaign against human trafficking operations.

“For so long, the Philippines has been seen as a haven for human traffickers, who use our nation as a source, destination and transit point for their operations. They’ve been met with so much success that trafficking in human beings is now considered worldwide as one of the most profitable criminal activities, next to the arms and illegal drug trade.

“Our aim is simple: succeed in removing the Philippines from their ‘trade route,’” said De Lima, also chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, DOJ official-in-charge of IACAT operations and human trafficking cases, also welcomed the MOA.

Earlier, DOJ officials have expressed optimism that the country would be removed from the Tier 2 watch list on human trafficking of the US State Department.


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