Press Release
February 2, 2022

De Lima hails Senate approval of bill strengthening anti-human trafficking law

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is elated over the Senate's approval on third and final reading of the bill that aims to strengthen the country's law against human trafficking.

De Lima, co-author of Senate Bill (SB) No. 2449 or the "Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act of 2021," said the measure will help ensure that the continuing exploitation of women and children, even amid the pandemic, will no longer be allowed to persist.

"Several reports have already noted how the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to the sharp rise in abuse, exploitation and trafficking of women and children. Nakikitang ginagamit ng mga kawatan at masasamang loob ang pagdurusa ng ating mga kababayan at pagkalugmok sa kahirapan upang silawin sila sa maliit na kita at panandaliang ginhawa," she said.

If passed into law, De Lima pointed out that SB No. 2449 could "further shield potential victims of human trafficking during times when they are most vulnerable to being lured into these illicit activities."

With 22 affirmative votes, no negative votes, and no abstention, senators passed SB No. 2449, which intends to amend the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act last Jan. 31.

In 2016, the UNICEF warned that the Philippines has become the global epicenter of live-stream sexual abuse trade where many of the victims are children. According to its findings, 8 out of 10 children in the Philippines are vulnerable to being victims of online sexual abuse.

Save the Children Philippines later raised concerns about a silent pandemic which it claimed has the most deleterious effects, with reports showing that parents pimped out their own children as lockdowns stretched from days to months, leading them jobless and causing their livelihood to shut down.

De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, stressed that the law demands that "we evolve with the times, and so we respond to the call of the times by giving teeth to the law."

Its salient provisions include, among others, forbidding online sexual abuse and digitally generated materials, as well as imposing a duty on financial institutions and persons with direct knowledge or reasonable suspicion that financial activities are related to trafficking activities the duty to report the same to authorities within seven days from discovery.

This bill also makes the commission of human trafficking qualified trafficking when such is committed during a crisis, public health concern, disaster, humanitarian conflict, emergency situation, or when the person trafficked is a survivor of the same.

"This way, the State can more effectively enforce the laws even in the digital world which monsters have turned into their lewd playground for so long," De Lima said.

"Sa ganitong paraan, binibigyan natin ng higit na pagbabantay at mas mabigat na parusa ang anumang pang-aabuso lalo sa panahon kung kailan gipit ang taumbayan at maaaring madala sa kalam ng sikmura," she added.

Amid the recent development on the measure, De Lima called on the public to continue fighting all forms of abuses against the vulnerable members of the society.

"Ipahiram natin ang ating boses at panahon upang malaman at malabanan ng lipunan ang mga suliraning sumisira sa kanila at nagwawasak sa kanilang pagkatao," she said.

During her stint as Justice Secretary, De Lima chaired the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to coordinate efforts in implementing laws against human trafficking, including all forms of sexual exploitation, which resulted in the country's attainment of the Tier 1 Status in the annual United States Trafficking in Persons Report in 2016.

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