Philippines gets positive ranking in US human trafficking report

Posted on June 29, 2017

THE PHILIPPINES ranked high in terms of enforcement against human trafficking, according to a report on this global phenomenon newly released by the US State Department.

File photo taken on November 5, 2014 shows bar girls talking to customers in the thriving red light district of Angeles City, north of Manila. AFP
But the same report also made considerable reference to the Philippines in terms of the various crimes under human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking.

The “Trafficking in Persons Report,” as it is titled, covers the period of April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017.

Among other things, the report noted “the burden on governments... to protect victims (becomes) heightened when their own officials engage in or facilitate trafficking crimes.”

“Some judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials throughout the world accept bribes for reducing sentences of perpetrators, leaking information to suspects under investigation, or ignoring potential cases,” the report added.

“Law enforcement officials who protect brothels for financial gain can be complicit in sex trafficking, while those who knowingly purchase commercial sex from sex trafficking victims are directly culpable. Some diplomats exploit their domestic workers, often avoiding penalties for trafficking crimes committed abroad,” the report also said, noting too further that:

“When authorities punish trafficking victims for crimes they were forced to commit, including prostitution and immigration violations, they hinder their own efforts to investigate and punish traffickers. “

Among the report’s topics of special interest, in its table of contents, are “Online Sexual Exploitation of Children: An Alarming Trend” and “Paying to Work: The High Cost of Recruitment Fees.”

In his message opening the report, US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said in part: “The introduction of this year’s Report focuses on the responsibility of governments to criminalize human trafficking and hold offenders accountable. To that end, this Report is intended to assist governments in identifying threats so law enforcement agencies around the world can respond effectively and gain insight into where human trafficking remains most severe.”

In her message, former federal prosecutor Susan Coppedge, who is currently Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said in part: “When I engage with representatives of foreign governments, I often speak with police, investigators, prosecutors, and judges. I commend those who are fearless in the fight against human trafficking -- those who courageously take on the tough cases, those who argue for stringent sentences for criminals and restitution for victims, and those who do so while ensuring that victims are treated with dignity.”

The US State Department said it “prepared this Report using information from US embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips to every region of the world, and information submitted to”

According to the report’s methodology, governments/countries under “Tier 1” are those that “fully meet the minimum standards of the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 under US federal laws) for the elimination of trafficking.”

Alongside the Philippines under Tier 1 are Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, several countries in Europe, Canada, and the United States, among others.

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 are classified under Tier 2. Under this, the State Department has also drawn up a watch list that includes Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Hong Kong, among others.

Governments of countries that do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so are classified under Tier 3 -- which includes, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and China, among others.

South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand stand out as Tier 1 governments in the Asia-Pacific region -- otherwise dominated by Tier-2 watch-list nations as well as Tier-2 nations such as Japan, whereas China stands out as the Tier-3 country or government in the region.

Despite this standing, the Philippines and its nationals are cited where the report dwelled on victims of sex trafficking -- including the similar exploitation of children -- in countries as diverse as Bahrain, Cyprus, Czechia, and Egypt.

“Vulnerable populations include migrant workers -- especially from Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Philippines -- who arrive voluntarily to work as domestic employees and laborers, but may be recruited or deceived by traffickers who lure victims with fraudulent recruitment practices, such as false promises of employment through advertisements in foreign newspapers,” the report said in part.

The report also said: “In the Philippines, where many are impoverished and nearly half of the population is connected to the Internet, numerous individuals in poor communities reportedly earn income from this type of child exploitation. Online sessions can be conducted at low cost using a cellphone or a computer with a webcam. Connections to prospective clients are made easily; clients remain anonymous and make payments by wire transfer. Children, often naked, have been exploited on camera -- including by family members or neighbors -- and coerced into exhibiting themselves and performing sex acts for the viewing of individuals watching online.”

Still, the report acknowledged the Philippines’ sustained law enforcement efforts, as it cited, among others, the country’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.