|Photo source: US Department of State official website|
Countries around the world continue to strive in their fight against human trafficking whose efforts are reflected in the yearly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of the US Department of State. This year, the Philippines has once again sustained its top ranking due to its relentless efforts in the elimination of human trafficking. The first time the country met the US standards in fighting trafficking was in 2016. Tier 1 is the highest status a country could receive signifying compliance with the minimum standards of the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
The 2017 TIP Report placed the Philippines along with 35 other countries under the Tier 1 Ranking. The report covered government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017 and emphasized that the placement was not based on the size of the country’s problem but on the extent of government’s efforts to meet the standards of the TVPA.
In the report, the US State Department cited that backlogs in the courts or with over-burdened law enforcement personnel in many countries delay prosecutions and slow the delivery of justice. It added that the significant delays in prosecution discourage victims from testifying or pursuing a case, thus allowing traffickers to continuously exploit victims. The report, however notably recognized the efforts of the Philippines’ Supreme Court when it instituted the continuous trial system pilot project in 2014 to significantly expedite human trafficking prosecutions. According to the report, the Supreme Court of the Philippines completed trafficking cases in less than one year and it continued to expedite trafficking prosecutions in subsequent years.
It can be recalled that in 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2010, the Philippines was classified under the Tier 2 Watch List and was upgraded to Tier 2 thus removing it from the “watch list” in 2011. Its Tier 2 ranking lasted until 2015.
The US State Department reminds that Tier 1 represents a responsibility rather than a reprieve. “A country is never finished with the job of fighting trafficking”, it further added.
Already in its 17th year, the TIP Report places each country onto one of four tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Tier rankings and narratives in the 2017 TIP Report reflect an assessment on the (a) enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA, and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses; and (b) criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) is the chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking Advocacy and Communication Committee (IACAT-ADVOCOM).The creation of the IACAT-ADVOCOM is in line with one of the functions of the IACAT as stipulated in Section 21 (e) of RA 9208 or Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 as amended by RA 10364 or Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which is to coordinate the conduct of massive information dissemination and campaign on the existence of the law and the various issues and problems attendant to trafficking.
Engaging and mobilizing various stakeholders and target groups such as the national and local government agencies; civil society groups; media institutions; international organizations; foreign government agencies; migrant associations; and other non-government organizations are among the Council’s strategies to further the Philippine government’s fight against human trafficking.
To make the government services more accessible to the public, the IACAT through its ADVOCOM launched the 1343 Actionline Against Human Trafficking on 15 March 2011 and partnered with the Dynamic Outsource Solutions (DOS1). It is a 24/7 hotline facility that responds to emergency or crisis calls from victims of human trafficking and their families. The 1343 Actionline likewise provides a venue for the public to be engaged in the fight against trafficking in persons. Its creation is also in line with the core message of the IACAT which is, “Laban kontra Human Trafficking, Laban nating Lahat.”
-  Tier 1. The governments of countries that fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
- Tier 2. The governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
- Tier 2 Watch List. The government of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, and for which: a. the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b. there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials; or c. the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year.
- Tier 3. The governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so..
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration significantly intensified the Philippines’ war against human traffickers in his pronouncement during his first State of the Nation Address in 2016. In pursuing a swift and fair administration of justice , the President’s policy was further sealed in the 2017 – 2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP). It was mentioned that attention will be given to victims of abuse and human trafficking, along with other sectors. Furthermore, the PDP assures that the Philippine criminal justice system will undertake measures to strengthen civil forfeiture and recovery mechanisms, especially in relation to cases of corruption, illegal drugs, human trafficking, cybercrime, economic sabotage, terrorism, and other organized transnational crimes.
 Chapter 6 of the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan
CFO Press Release