Zamboanga City – THE Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) which is chaired by the Justice Department is crafting a local law that will serve as a “model ordinance” to encourage local governments to adopt laws to curb the rising cases of human trafficking in the country. Atty. Deana P. Perez, senior state prosecutor of the Department of Justice and the secretariat head of the IACAT.
Trafficking is the recruitment, transport and transfer of persons, with or without their consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, including abduction, fraud, deception, and abuse of power. Human trafficking also involves giving or receiving payments and benefits in the exploitation of people, usually through prostitution, forced labor and slavery.
Perez presented two topics on human trafficking laws both for local and international during a three-day seminar in Davao City in July. She said the “model ordinance” will serve as a guide for local legislators in coming up with a local law that will strengthen and empower the Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
She said the crafting of the “model ordinance,” which is expected to be released on August, is part of the IACAT’s national strategic action plan against trafficking in persons that was started on 2004 and will end on 2010.
Under the law, the council, which is composed of various government agencies and non-government organizations, was created to coordinate, monitor and oversee the implement of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
“Our responsibility is to mobilize communities into action to prevent and suppress trafficking in persons at the community level, and these include the encouragement to formulate local issuances or ordinances and policies on trafficking; and mobilize and strengthen committees, councils at the local level,” Perez said.
Justice department records show that 248 human trafficking-related complaints were filed from 2003 to 1006. Of these, only eight convictions were reported since the law took effect on 2003.
The recent conviction was last March 27, this year, in Zamboanga City, wherein the local court sentenced a trafficker to life imprisonment with a fine of P6-million. The recent conviction was the second time around in Zamboanga City, according to City prosecutor Ricardo C. Cabaron. The first conviction happened on 2005, after three persons were proven to be involved in trafficking a Filipino woman in Sabah, Malaysia.
Mindanao has the highest cases of human trafficking in the country with more than 50% of the total cases, said Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI), a nongovernmental organization that has been working on this concern for the last 15 years.
Arthur E. Necesito, head of the Foundation’s Mindanao Bureau, said 1,449 trafficked victims were recorded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development from 2003 to 2006, of which 40% were minors and more than 50% were women and children.
“There is a need for the public to understand what is human trafficking. With the locals having proper knowledge, this illegal human trading could be easily prevented,” Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda of the foundation said.
Human trafficking has become almost like selling Tupperware products by using networking scheme. In our experience, there is a family there in Luzon earning money by recruiting illegal, she said. The government and the private sector should ‘break’ the ‘cultural acceptance’ of the Filipino in craving to work abroad without recognizing the legal process, she added.
The Philippines is one of the signatories of various international treaties on anti-human trafficking, Perez said, and having a poor performance will subject the country to international sanctions, too.