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PH tops US rights report




The Philippines was among countries in the Asia-Pacific region with the best record on the battle against human trafficking for three consecutive years, two of which under President Duterte’s watch, an annual report of the US State Department said.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2018 said the country received the highest “Tier 1” rating after fully meeting the minimum US standards against trafficking practices such as human smuggling and modern-day slavery.

“The country retaining highest ranking in the report speaks of the determination of the Philippine government to uphold and protect human rights,”Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said.

The Philippines, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan were the only countries in East Asia and the Pacific to be awarded Tier 1 status.

The Philippines has been in Tier 1 on the US list for the past three years.

From 2011 to 2015, Manila was in Tier 2 of the TIP report and it was upgraded to Tier 1 in 2016.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the report read.

“The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers,” it added.

The report, released annually by the US government since 2001, is mandated under the US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

The four tier placements signifying level of compliance with TVPA standards are Tier 1 or full compliance, Tier 2 or no full compliance but making significant efforts to comply with standards, Tier 2 Watchlist or no full compliance and absolute number of victims increasing, and Tier 3 or no full compliance and no significant efforts to comply.

TIP commitment validated

“The report validated the country’s commitment against TIP,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez was present in the report’s launch ceremony with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo.

“Being in Tier 1 for three consecutive years showed the effectiveness of the Philippines’ victim-centered and multi-agency approach to address human trafficking,” Romualdez said.

“The Philippine embassy in Washington, D.C. remains committed to engaging and cooperating with US stakeholders in advancing the international anti-TIP agenda,” he added.

The government has “effectively” coordinated identification, referral, and provision of services to more victims and has increased efforts to help Filipino migrant workers that are victims of trafficking abroad, according to the report.

The Philippines has also exerted efforts to reduce the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts.

The State Department also recognized the sustained law enforcement efforts against human trafficking.

“During the reporting period, authorities investigated 488 suspected trafficking cases, compared with 553 in 2016. These actions led to the arrest of 283 suspects, an increase from 272 in 2016,” the report said.

It added during the reporting period, the government supported victims who served as witnesses during trials by providing assistance, security and transportation.

“Continuing a donor-supported pilot program, two Department of Justice (DoJ) victim-witness coordinators assisted victims whose cases were investigated and
prosecuted by anti-trafficking task forces,” the report said.

Protect male victims

Despite meeting the standards, Washington underscored Manila’s need to improve the availability and quality of protection for male victims.

“(The Philippines should) increase the availability of specialized shelter and mental health services for victims of trafficking, including child and male victims of online sexual exploitation, (and) increase efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of trafficking, particularly complicit officials and labor traffickers.”

The report said the government did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes or punish labor traffickers.

Efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of trafficking, particularly complicit officials and labor traffickers, should also be increased.

Resources for anti-trafficking task forces should also be provided to support coordinated operations, protection services and timely preliminary investigation and prosecution of trafficking, including cases involving online sexual exploitation of children, it said.