VARIOUS courts convicted 119 human traffickers last year, a record since a measure outlawing human trade for forced labor, sexual slavery and other illegal purposes was enacted in 2003, according to the Justice department.

The number of convictions last year almost doubled from 2017, reflecting better performance by police and government investigators in collecting evidence, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a human trafficking event.

“We’ve increased our training for our frontliners — those that collect the evidence, like the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation,” she said.

Ms. Villar said the country used to have a low conviction rate because trafficking victims did not want to testify against the usual suspects — family members and neighbors.

The Justice department increased efforts to train police and agents as well as government prosecutors who conduct the preliminary investigations.

“They are trained to look at what needs to be collected so that they won’t need the testimony of the witness in order to secure a conviction,” Ms. Villar said.

Programs against human trafficking had to be stepped up because trafficking is also conducted online, she said.

A Manila Declaration to enhance international cooperation in combating human trafficking was signed at the 5th Manila International Dialogue on Human Trafficking.

Ms. Villar said international dialogues help in coordinating efforts against human trafficking, which is a “transnational crime.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas