PHL praised by UN for efforts to address trafficking in persons

November 10, 2012 12:23 am 

MANILA, Nov. 9 — The Philippines has made significant progress in addressing human trafficking, a United Nations expert said Friday.

The official praised Manila’s efforts to carry out stringent measures to stem the illegal flow of Filipinos abroad.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the government of President Aquino has demonstrated a “strong commitment” to combat the global scourge.

This, she said, is reflected by the country’s accession to several international protocols and ratification of agreements to fight trafficking.

Ezeilo concluded Friday her five-day mission to the Philippines that brought her to trafficking hotpots like Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga.

Her visit was aimed at examining the situation of trafficked persons and the impact of trafficking measures in the country.

Ezeilo said she finds “commendable” the country’s “significant progress” to address trafficking in persons through the enactment and an Anti-Trafficking Act and the crafting of strong law enforcement policies.

The Philippines had been criticized for its failure to effectively deal with human trafficking, prompting the United States to put the country on a Tier 2 list of countries that have yet to fully meet international anti-trafficking standards.

In recent years, under President Aquino, the government has taken drastic measures that allowed Manila to escape stiff sanctions from Washington, such as withholding of millions of dollars worth of aid, and ending up in a dreaded blacklist of countries that do not comply with international trafficking laws.

Ezeilo lauded efforts have been made in the creation of various law enforcement teams at the airports, seaports and land bases to enforce the anti-trafficking law at the regional level.

“I met with a number of the task forces and the commitment with which their members deploy efforts to fight against trafficking is indeed encouraging,” she said.

Despite improvement in its standing, Ezeilo still viewed with alarm the unabated cases of trafficking, particularly among Filipino women.

The Philippines, she said, remains “a source country for human trafficking with its citizens being trafficked in different parts of the world.”

Ezeilo blamed poverty, youth unemployment, gender inequality, conflict, disasters and the prevailing cultural social frameworks for the unabated trafficking of persons, mostly women, in the country.

Common forms of trafficking in Filipino men, women and children are sexual tourism, cybersex and pornographic purposes, force and bonded labor, domestic servitude, forced marriages as we well as organ transplantation.

“It’s very clear that the Philippines is a source country and the problem has not declined,” Ezeilo told a press conference.

Despite pressing challenges in Manila’s anti-trafficking efforts, Ezeilo said “the government of the Philippines has demonstrated strong commitment to combating this scourge.”

However, Ezeilo lamented the low rate of convictions of human traffickers and slow-paced court trials.

She also observed the lack of accurate data on victims and the low level of awareness, knowledge and skills among government authorities to identify cases of trafficking in persons.

Although the government and its civil society partners are strengthening the capacity of government officials, particularly law enforcers, on how to handle cases of trafficking, Ezeilo said the large turnover rate of officers hampers the prevention and prosecution of such cases.

Sexual exploitation of children is still rampant as well as the abuse of human rights of Filipino workers abroad, she added.

“The impunity with which human trafficking is carried out in the country and horrendous abuses meted out to victims are indeed alarming,” Ezeilo said.

To effectively address the problem, one of Ezeilo’s recommendations is for the government to establish a specialized court to fast-rrack the trial of trafficking cases.

She said the government should also scale up prevention initiatives that would address the root causes of tracking, including demand of sexual services and cheap labor. (PNA)



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