The Philippines maintained its Tier 1 ranking in a major anti-trafficking report released by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, July 20, placing it among the most exemplary nations engaged in the fight against all forms of human trafficking around the globe.
The annual Trafficking in Person (TIP) report highlighted various solutions initiated by the Philippine government and International Justice Mission (IJM) that helped the country remain a leader for the seventh year running.
The Philippines “continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts … considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity,” the 2022 TIP report says.
Among other efforts, the 600-page report praises the Philippines and the United Kingdom for being at the forefront of developing survivor-informed prevention and protection models, highlighting focus group discussions co-organized or supported by the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) and IJM to seek input from survivors.
The report also notes advances in the use of financial and digital evidence and the trend towards plea bargaining in court cases, which reduces reliance on survivor testimony and expedites trials, significantly lowering the potential to re-traumatize children.
“We thank the U.S. State Department for acknowledging robust initiatives in the Philippines to combat trafficking in persons, including one of its darkest forms - the online sexual exploitation of children. The country has received the TIP report’s highest ranking for seven years now because of a collective effort between the government and like-minded partners to prevent human trafficking and hold perpetrators accountable. We are steadfast in our shared pursuit to end impunity for trafficking crimes,” said Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) OIC-Executive Director Wendell P. Bendoval.
Police Brigadier General Edgar DM Cacayan, Chief of Philippine National Police – Women and Children Protection Center, also welcomed the report. He said: “Another milestone and achievement have been achieved as we maintained Tier 1 status on the U.S. State Department’s Global Trafficking in Persons Report for the seventh year. The collaborative efforts of the PNP-WCPC together with other local and foreign law enforcement agencies and NGOs resulted in the prosecution of perpetrators and rehabilitation of survivors’ lives. This only further strengthened WCPC’s advocacy to put every perpetrator behind bars to combat and end human trafficking.”
“I congratulate our anti-trafficking colleagues for this latest recognition of our efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons. Although we have been ranked Tier 1 for the past seven years, we will not relent in our work of safeguarding more vulnerable people from being exploited. The National Bureau of Investigation is dedicated to working with local and international law enforcement partners to rescue more victims and make their perpetrators pay,” said Atty. Yehlen C. Agus, CPA, Chief, Anti-Human Trafficking Division.
“IJM supports Philippine authorities not only in protecting children from online sexual exploitation, but also in caring for survivors. We are committed to developing best practices in law enforcement, aftercare, prosecution, as well as local and global deterrence campaigns. It is heartening to see some promising initiatives get global recognition, including the model of international law enforcement collaboration championed by PICACC,” said Atty. Samson Inocencio Jr., National Director and Regional Vice President of IJM Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
The Philippines Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC), which IJM helped establish, was credited with improving the effectiveness of investigations into child sex trafficking online by deepening coordination with law enforcement agencies from several countries.
Launched on February 27, 2019, the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center (PICACC) is a coordinating body between local and international law enforcement. Principally led by the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) and the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Division (NBI-AHTRAD), PICACC is supported by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UK NCA), the National Police of the Netherlands (Politie) and the non-government organization, International Justice Mission (IJM).
While full of praise for the Philippines’ anti-trafficking efforts, the report also called for increased support for programs that provide specialised care for child victims of online sexual exploitation.