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De Lima to push for more funds vs human trafficking PDF Print E-mail
Jul 29, 2010 at 05:46 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday blamed the lack of proper funding by the previous administration for government’s failure to address human trafficking in the country.

De Lima said she would push for allocation of more funds to the anti-human trafficking drive of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to ensure the prosecution and conviction of suspected human traffickers.

“It was not in the budget last year, and also not in the budget this year. I’m asking for an explanation why this is so from the Finance (department) people. IACAT needs to be adequately funded with at least P10 million,” she said.

De Lima claimed the government has not allocated even a single centavo to the IACAT, which, she said, has been relying on donations from various organizations to carry out its mandate under Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

“If government is serious in the fight against human trafficking, how come it does not give budget (to the Inter-Agency Council)? The DBM (Department of Budget and Management) had always slashed the budget for human trafficking,” she said.

De Lima lamented that the lack of financial support has led to the Philippines losing the battle against human trafficking.

De Lima said she would discuss the matter with President Aquino as well as with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for their budget presentation on the weekend.

She also underscored the need to “put in the right people in government agencies at the forefront in combating trafficking,” like the Bureau of Immigration and the Manila International Airport Authority.

A recent US State Department report placed the Philippines in the Tier 2 watch list, precariously close to falling to the Tier 3 category, which lumps countries that fail to meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The Philippines has been classified a Tier 2 country since 2007, but this was the second straight year it has been on the watch list.

The US government could withhold aid to the country amounting to $250 million if it lands in Tier 3.

“The fact that we’ve been listed for two consecutive years means we are losing the battle. We are dealing with syndicates here,” De Lima said.

The US report said the Philippines is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The report said Filipino women are often lured abroad with false promises of legitimate employment but often end up in destinations throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America in commercially exploitative positions.

A significant number of the 71,084 Philippine women who entered Japan as performing artists in 2004 are believed to have been trafficked into the sex trade, the US report said.

It pointed out that the Philippines’ placement in the Tier 2 watch list was due to its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to convict traffickers.

De Lima said the Philippine government has until February next year to show improvement in its drive against human trafficking, as set by the US government as a condition for the release of financial aid.

De Lima also ordered prosecutors at the Department of Justice to “work very hard to secure convictions” in cases involving human trafficking.

“The US is looking at convictions. Nothing less than conviction will satisfy the US government,” she stressed.

De Lima tasked IACAT to submit a list of pending cases in court that are already up for resolution to allow prosecutors to focus on such cases.

De Lima also reorganized IACAT, appointing Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar to head the agency.

De Lima also appointed Prosecutor Raymond Jonathan Lledo as national task force chairman with Ferdinand Baylon as chief of operations of task force, and Ramoncito Ocampo as head of task force at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. --Edu Punay (The Philippine Star)


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