Delivered by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar
I am honored to speak on behalf of our President today. Allow me to share with you his message on this occasion.
“These past two years, we have proven that, as a nation, we can make possible what was once thought of as impossible. For example, at a time when economies all around the world face great uncertainty, ours thrives. Both the investor market and our people are working with a newfound confidence that has led us from success to success. And we have done this despite the significant deficit we inherited, and without raising taxes.
These past two years, we have also breathed new life to the idea that government is there to work for its people. We have focused on fulfilling our mandate to uplift the common Filipino by spending significant portions of our budget on social services--most prominently our Pantawid Pamilya Program, which is helping three million households from sinking further into poverty, and is giving them the resources to lift themselves out of their situations. We are giving their children the chance at proper education. We are requiring them to see medical professionals for regular check-ups. In short, government is finally giving our people what they rightfully deserve.
Today, we talk about yet another thing that our countrymen deserve--the right to advance themselves in a democratic society without fear nor insecurity. Today, we gather to discuss how we can safeguard the dignity of every Filipino from human trafficking and other forms of injustice. Today, we say, as long as a Filipino is abused or trafficked, as long as lives are threatened and as long as injustice seeks to trample freedom, we shall not rest to reform the system.
Our efforts are paying off. As you must be aware of, the US State Department has maintained the classification of the Philippines under the Tier 2 category in its Global Human Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report, recognizing the progress we have made in our crusade against human trafficking.
Since we held office (two years ago), we have convicted fifty-eight persons for human trafficking, beating the number of convictions for the same crime (for the nine years) of the previous administration. We have also allocated one hundred twenty-five million pesos for the operations budget of our Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), so as to expand the scope of their investigations and operations. Moreover, as part of our efforts to weed out the elements of corruption and deceit in our government, we have intensified our campaign against elements in our ranks that provide protection to syndicates, whether in the business of human trafficking or drug trade.
But much is still to be done: because as we clear our system to usher in progress, as we take a principled stand to ensure each Filipino is kept from harm's way, as we tread the straight and righteous path together, agents of corruption, these wrongdoers, stand by the wayside ready to undermine law and order, peace and progress, so that they can once again extract personal gain by going back to the old system, where values, principles, and service are deemed signs of weakness.
For this reason, we are stiffening our judicial spine. All of you very well know, as we have proven, we shall not hold anyone higher than the law. Every Filipino, regardless of belief, position, and stance in life, is accountable to the one principle that defines our being Filipino: dignity that empowers us to create a nobler, more just, and more progressive Philippine society.
The security we seek can only be achieved through vigilance and communal action. We must be each other's keeper, ready to stand against that which dehumanizes our countrymen, and undermines the sanctity of our laws.
Today, we make this claim: we cannot accept the old ways because the lives of our people are at stake. Our agenda is to unshackle our people from poverty, abuse, and injustice, in order for them to achieve their deepest aspirations, which will lead us to greater heights.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the message of His Excellency.
At this point, please allow me to say a few words on behalf of that legendary partnership behind the success of the Philippines in the anti-human trafficking front – the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).
On behalf of the IACAT, I would like to thank all of you partners present here today. Thank you for your help, for your commitment, and for your passion for our shared mission of helping and serving those who have become victims of the crime of human trafficking.
Our partnership has done much. We have recently been given much. Now, much more is being asked of us.
We are not daunted by the growing expectation. And, that much more is expected of us is understandable and, for good reason.
The global menace of human trafficking continues to grow. The criminal elements involved therein continue to refine their methods and operations. They are growing their network as we are growing ours. They are expanding their partnerships as we do ours.
For our part, it’s too early to rest on our laurels.
There are still much more that need to be done by our partnership. Let me cite a few:
One, we need to further up the pace and quality of the prosecution of criminal elements involved in human trafficking.
Two, we need to further tighten the noose on the operations of these syndicates and create an environment that makes it very difficult for them to perpetrate their evil deeds.
Three, we need to act fast and act big on the aspect of public information and education. Human trafficking flourishes where there is ignorance. These criminals prey on the innocent. We can thwart that only with an aggressive campaign against ignorance.
Fourth, we need to expand our resources for helping rescue victims and for helping them rebuild their lives and get back into the mainstream of society.
Fifth, we need to further police our own ranks, and this is especially true on the part of our partners in the government sector. There are quote-unquote, “infiltrators” – our own who help these syndicates commit their crime or help them in the aftermath of an arrest.
Friends, it is said, “to whom much is given, much is also required”.
We have been given what is required to right this Injustice.
Let us therefore go and further expand and strengthen the partnership so that we may all do what is required of us.
When the cause of Justice calls, we have our partnership, and the unceasing grace drawn from Faith to rely on.
Thank you, and God bless us all.