The Philippines is gunning to keep — for the eighth straight year — its Tier 1 Status in the world index in the fight against human trafficking, and the rescue of around 30 victims in the month of February alone augurs well towards that goal.
Lawyer Jose Vicente “Jovy” Salazar, former Department of Justice Undersecretary-in-Charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, recently expressed apprehension over the rash of human trafficking incidents.
But yesterday, Salazar said the “consistent” rescue of 26 victims by authorities could merit approval of the United States Department of State on extending PH’s top-tier status this year.
A Tier 1 ranking in the United States (US) 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which is the highest classification status that can be given to any country, is based on its full compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of all severe forms of human trafficking.
A couple of days ago, two women suspected to be victims of human trafficking were recently barred by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from leaving the country.
Bound for Saudi Arabia and Singapore, the names of the passengers were withheld due to a provision in the anti-trafficking law prohibiting the public disclosure of names of human trafficking victims. They reportedly paid P85,000 to unscrupulous recruiters to work as household service workers abroad.
Both women were turned over to IACAT for assistance in the filing of appropriate cases against their recruiters.
“These are the first two incidents of human trafficking (HT) within the first week of the month of February. This was followed by similar incidents that were foiled by authorities at the country’s so-called ‘backdoor,’ Tawi-Tawi,” Salazar said.
“It’s good to note, however, the human trafficking tries were foiled by authorities, but the bad news remains that based on the frequency of HT incidents in Tawi-Tawi, the fact remains that there is an existing, continuing system of illegal human transport,” Salazar added.
On February 12, the Coast Guard rescued eight individuals on the same day as the Joint Task Force-Tawi-Tawi also rescued six Malaysian-bound victims in Bongao port.
Similarly, the 16 HT victims rescued last Feb. 23 were also en route to Malaysia, where they were supposedly promised jobs by a certain Jason.
“Kudos goes to the men and women involved in the fight against human trafficking, but we should come up with one good working framework to put an end to this recurring, nasty human trafficking modus there,” Salazar stressed.
With Salazar at the helm of IACAT from 2007 to 2015, the country gained the top tier status in the worldwide index on human trafficking released annually by the US State Department.
Salazar had also served as chairman of the board of governors and national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (2005-2007).
Later, he became Undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology but relinquished his post in December 2022, choosing to return to the private sector.
The victims in Tawi-Tawi were turned over to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development Office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for assistance in returning to their respective homes.
As co-chair of the IACAT, the DSWD contributes to the fight against human trafficking through the implementation of the Recovery and Reintegration Program for Trafficked Persons.
The RRPTP is a comprehensive program that provides adequate and appropriate recovery and reintegration services to those who have been victims of human trafficking.