Press Release
December 5, 2012

Senate ratifies anti-trafficking measure

The Senate on Wednesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report reconciling the disagreeing provisions of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act. Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate sub-committee on anti-trafficking and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2625, lauded the ratification of the measure and called on President Noynoy Aquino for its immediate enactment into law. "We have done our best in coming up with safeguards to protect our women and children from being victimized by those engaged in anti-trafficking, and it is now up to the President to ensure that this very important measure is passed into law at the soonest possible time," Legarda said. According to Legarda, enactment of the measure will ensure added protection not just for trafficked victims, but also, to a reasonable extent, law enforcement officers and social workers "from harassment suits for lawful acts done in good faith during authorized rescue operations, investigation or prosecution of a case."

"Enactment into law of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act will fill the voids in the existing law by expanding the list of acts that promote trafficking, to include an act to destroy or tamper with evidence, to influence witnesses in an investigation, or to utilize one's public office to impede an investigation or to obstruct the execution of lawful orders," she added.

Amendments adopted by both Houses of Congress include, among others, the establishment of free legal assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment, who will be in charge of providing temporary shelter to Filipino victims of trafficking overseas.

Another amendment calls for the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to create a blacklist of recruitment agencies, illegal recruiters and persons facing administrative, civil and criminal complaints for trafficking. The list will also include persons involved in trafficking who have been rescued by the DFA and DOLE, provided that the rescued victims shall execute an affidavit attesting to the acts committed in violation of the measure.

According to the amendment the "blacklist shall be posted in conspicuous places in concerned government agencies and shall be updated monthly." To ensure the continuity of programs and to take the battle against trafficking to a higher plane of strategic action and public awareness, Legarda also said that permanent secretariat within the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) will be established. "The IACAT will be composed of the heads of the Departments of Justice, Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the DFA, DOLE, other government agencies and non-government organizations representing women, OFWs and children," Legarda said. (YVONNE ALMIRAÑEZ, PRIB)

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