Press Release
October 8, 2012

Senate bill adds more teeth to Anti-Trafficking Law

The Senate approved on third and final reading a bill which seeks to put more teeth to the government's fight against anti-trafficking.

Co-sponsored by Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Franklin Drilon and Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Senate Bill No. 2625, otherwise known as the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010, was approved with nineteen affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstentions.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lauded the passage of the bill, but cautioned that the government must remain vigilant in its commitment to fight human trafficking.

"I urge President Aquino to fast-track the enactment of this measure into law for the sake of many of our people who are caught in the web of human trafficking. We must remain committed in eradicating this problem, not just to protect our women and children from predators, but also our overseas-Filipino-workers who suffer the most from human traffickers hiding in the guise of recruitment agencies," Enrile said.

Among the amendments included in Senate Bill No. 2625 is the inclusion of the crime of attempted trafficking, whether by recruiting, transporting, selling, buying, and forcing women and children to engage in prostitution or any other degrading means.

"Corresponding penalties will also be implemented against the act of adopting women and children especially if the adoption was proven to be a means of prostitution, forced labor, involuntary servitude or debt bondage, including recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, as these acts are considered possible means of trafficking," Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women, and Family Relations, said.

"Anyone found to violate the provisions of this measure will be punished with 15 years imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1,000,000," Cayetano added.

An important provision in the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208) prohibits the disclosure of the name and personal circumstances of victims of trafficking. Under Senate Bill No. 2625, the identity of victims of human trafficking will remain private, while persons accused of human trafficking will now be made public to warn possible victims.

Cayetano stressed that "lifting the confidentiality provision favoring persons accused of human trafficking while maintaining the protection intended for trafficking victims, enables the government, as well as media and other NGOs, to disseminate information to the public and warn them of persons who might victimize them into this illicit global enterprise."

An earlier study commissioned by the U.S. Department of State entitled Trafficking in Persons Report has identified the Philippines as one of the countries that have had little progress in its fight to stop human trafficking.

The Philippines has since then been delisted from the US State Department's watch list in its "2011 Trafficking in Persons Report", Cayetano noted.

"The removal of the Philippines from the watch list and moving us to Tier 2 indicates that we are moving in the right direction," Cayetano earlier said. She echoed Enrile in saying that although the country's anti-trafficking status has been downgraded, government should not be complacent in addressing the issue of human trafficking. "We should continue to exert efforts to address this issue," Cayetano said, adding that "for as long as there is one woman, one child, one Filipino who is a victim of trafficking, our work is not over." "Years after the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act took effect, the Philippines is still a long way from the goal of totally eliminating trafficking. Senate Bill No. 2625 will enable the different government agencies in our country to run after and prosecute persons and businesses engaged in the trafficking of our women and children," Cayetano further said.

Also included in the amendments to R.A. 9208 are the addition of a new section detailing acts that constitute attempted trafficking in persons; the strengthening of legal protection for victims in the form of custody and interim protection order; and the establishment of a permanent secretariat within the inter-agency council for anti-trafficking. (YVONNE ALMIRAÑEZ, PRIB)

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