Press Release
February 26, 2018

'Dismal 5% conviction rate on illegal recruitment cases a cause for national worry'

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is backing the Labor department's recommendation to President Duterte to form an anti-illegal recruitment task force, "if such would improve the conviction rate on illegal recruitment cases, which in 2016 was a dismal 5.3 percent."

Of the 736 cases disposed by state prosecutors that year, only 39 ended in conviction, while 211 were dismissed, 438 archived, 23 resulted in acquittals and 25 resolved through mediation, Recto said, citing a Department of Justice report to the Senate.

"Six in 10 were archived and three in 10 were dismissed. Not exactly a good record," Recto said.

He, however, admitted that there could be many reasons for the low batting average, such as lack of interest on the part of complainants, missing documentation, absence of witnesses, the accused jumping bail, "and even our understaffed, underpaid, overworked prosecution service."

According to Recto, one prosecutor currently handles about 403 criminal cases, and the Justice department is having a hard time filling 1,657 prosecutor vacancies.

He said ensuring that illegal recruiters are "caught, charged and convicted" should be a main priority of an inter-agency anti-illegal recruitment task force that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III wants Malacañang to create.

Recto said that "historically, disposition rates of anti-illegal recruitment cases have always been below 50 percent, leading many illegal recruiters to set up new offices after they have been indicted. Due to loopholes, they can reinvent themselves as saints."

Reported caseloads from 2009 to 2015 totalled 18,885, but those disposed reached 12,238, or two-thirds, Recto said.

But not all 12,238 disposed cases during the seven-year period were filed in court, "in fact only 9,375 cases were filed, and 2,863 were dismissed, referred or archived, Recto explained.

Recto said the downward trend in the disposition rate was already evident 10 years ago, based on POEA records.

"Disposition rate in 2004 was 45 percent, meaning 650 complaints out of 1,462 received were acted upon. This went down to 11 percent in 2009 and 17 percent in 2010," Recto said.

"At kahit libo-libo ang reklamo at nagiging biktima, ang average kada taon na bilang ng nahuhuli na illegal recruiter ay mga 40 lang. This was the period 2004 to 2010," Recto said.

Bello announced on Feb. 6 that his department is seeking the creation of an anti-illegal recruitment task force, whose mandate and composition are different from the DOJ-led Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking created in 2003 by Republic Act 9208.

"Tama naman ang DOLE kasi mas maraming kaso ng illegal recruitment. Yung disposed trafficking cases in 2016 ay 158, o mga one-fourth lang ng naaksyunan na reklamo laban sa illegal recruitment," Recto said.

"The certainty of conviction has always been an effective deterrent against crime. Kapag may revolving door ang kulungan at ang ating justice system, maraming OFW ang mabibiktima," he said.

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