Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Few Traffickers End Up in Court

*According to the interviews I conducted in the Philippines with various anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations- a justice system with too many cases and too few judges, corruption, the financial leverage of traffickers used to buy off both victims and criminal justice officials and an unfamiliarity with the anti-trafficking law on the part of prosecutors, amongst other factors, continue to hamper efforts to put traffickers behind bars in the Philippines.

From the Sun Star:

Philippines- Efforts to curb human trafficking are hobbled by the paucity of successful prosecutions, amid the lack of cooperation from victims and the limited ability of authorities to rescue possible victims, especially those in transit at the country’s many seaports.

Figures from the Department of Justice (DOJ) show that while 109 cases of human trafficking had been received and investigated from 2003-2005, only 22 cases had been filed.

The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division also reported that while it received 122 cases in 2006, it had recommended only three cases for prosecution, said University of the Philippines journalism professor Yvonne Chua.

Chua reported the figures during a media training workshop by the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), The Asia Foundation and the US Agency for International Development last Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.


During the workshop at Parklane International Hotel, Nancy Lozano, state counsel at the DOJ and a member of the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat), said there had been convictions in only 10 cases filed against traffickers in the country since Republic Act 9208 or “The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” was passed.

The first seven convictions took place in 2005, of which four took place in Quezon City, two in Batangas City and one in Zamboanga. The rest of the convictions were handed down last year, one each in Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga.

Last July, Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastorza Sr. found two pimps guilty of qualified trafficking of persons and imposed on them the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P3 million after a 2004 entrapment operation caught them offering nine females, one of them a minor, for sex to undercover NBI agents.

Interviewed earlier this month by participants of the media training workshop, Cebu City Assistant Prosecutor Rudolf Joseph Carillo described the conviction as a “breakthrough,” saying it was the first major promulgation in the Visayas region.

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