Friends, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for the privilege of sharing the Philippine experience in the fight against human trafficking.
When asked to describe our enemies in the human trafficking front, two adjectives come to mind.
Expansive, because the nemeses keep growing their network and alliances; and formidable since they have tapped the power of modern technologies and continue to enhance their war chest.
When asked what kind of efforts we have put up against them, two adjectives come to mind.
We have no option; we can do no less.
The Philippines is called a “source nation”. It’s not really the label we are primarily worried about; our concern is the exploitation of our people by our enemies in the human trafficking front. The forms of exploitation and victimization are sub-human. Putting an end to them called for an expansive and formidable front.
Today, much of our efforts have paid off; the Philippines has marked significant success.
Two developments, among others, attest to this success.
One, the recognition of our efforts by the US Department of State.
And Two, the growing support for our efforts from the international community.
The Philippines today is no longer in the watchlist of the US State Department. US State Secretary Hillary Clinton had publicly recognized what she referred to as “the high level of commitment” of our government in the war against human trafficking. And, Washington itself affirmed the feat when the US Department of State gave one of our prosecutors the Global Anti-trafficking Hero Award.
The recognition has come not only from the United States, but from other partner-nations.
Just last week, we signed several Memoranda of Agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands for stronger partnership and cooperation with respect trafficking in persons programs and initiatives, specifically, in the establishment of a Victim Processing Center and an Anti-trafficking in Persons Database.
Also recently, the Philippines became a member of the international organization called the Financial Coalition against Child Pornography. This was upon the invitation of this very influential organization.
From our perspective, we view both the invitation and our membership in this organization as a recognition and affirmation of the significant contribution we can make in the fight against child trafficking, child pornography and similar evils.
I am often asked: to what would the Philippines attribute its gains in the fight against human trafficking?
My answer: there are three pillars upon which much of the Philippines’ success rests.
By putting the necessary laws in place, our government made sure that there are no ad hoc efforts or structure in the fight against human trafficking. A law created the Inter-agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) which now leads in this fight. The same law clearly defined the actions which constituted human trafficking and imposed serious penalties for such acts.
Let me now go to the second pillar: “collaboration”.
It was clear to us that legislation would be nothing more than a scrap of paper if various concerned sectors do not stand up and rally behind the fight against human trafficking. And so once the law was set in place we called on both our partners in government and our allies in the private sector.
And we were not disappointed with the response we got.
They came and rallied behind the cause:
non-governmental organizations, faith-based institutions, the business community. Many of them have long been involved in the campaign:
helping out in surveillance and law enforcement;
assisting in the prosecution of suspects;
conducting public information campaigns; and
helping victims of human trafficking get back on their feet.
But today, these sectors work more cohesively, forming an expansive and formidable phalanx against the human trafficking syndicates.
We produced a short video presentation to document the pillars of our success.
Ladies and gentlemen: here it is.
There is a third pillar upon which our gains in the fight against human trafficking is based.
This is determination.
It refers to the collective will to overcome obstacles;
to push and sustain the efforts despite the odds; and,
not to rest on one’s laurels and avoid complacency until the job is completed and done.
So, where do we go from here?
The road ahead has been mapped out.
The directions are clear.
Plans are in place.
After marking our initial gains, we are now focused on the following priorities.
One, intensifying efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict both labor and sex trafficking offenders.
Two, clearing the backlog of trafficking cases in our courts.
Three, tightening the noose on government employees who aid in the operation of trafficking syndicates.
Four, increasing the number of processing centers and shelters for victims.
Five, developing programs to eliminate the demand for commercial sex.
On this note, allow me to use this forum to reiterate an earlier warning we have aired. The warning goes to syndicates and other criminal elements whose targets for exploitation are our children. Let notice be served that the Philippine government’s deadline for eradicating these elements and their operations has been shortened.
This only means one thing: we have put a major portion of our resources and efforts to put an early end to child trafficking and child prostitution. The solid phalanx formed by collaboration and determination is now behind this campaign.
We know that much more need to be done. Thus, we need to continue to tap the strength of the three pillars – legislation, collaboration and determination – to make our counter-efforts even more formidable.
We are confident that greater success lies ahead.
Thank you and good day.