Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday welcomed the retention of the Philippines' Tier 1 ranking in the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, taking it as a challenge for the government to do more in the fight against modern day slavery.
"Here is to more Tier 1 rankings in the coming years.?Together, we can do more to end this evil," Aguirre said in a statement.
He said the retention of the Tier 1 status is proof of the country’s continuing "commitment to ending this heinous crime."
Being under Tier 1 status means that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complied with the minimum requirements set by the United States Trafficking Victims Prevention Act of 2000.
Data from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) show that from July 2016 to June 2017, a total of 1,567 victims were served and 44 traffickers were put behind bars following their conviction in court.
"The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers, identifying more victims through proactive screening procedures, and expanding its efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers," the TIP Report said, which was released by the US State Department this month.
Still, the report disclosed that the Philippine government has failed to improve the quality of protection for trafficking victims, particularly the mental health care and services for male victims.
The government also allegedly failed to "vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes or expand its pilot program to address the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts."
"We acknowledge that the Philippines, even in Tier 1, should do more to combat human trafficking and continue its intensified efforts. I always say, nobody has the right to profit from the deprivation of the freedom of others. When we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves," Aguirre said.
The country first achieved Tier 1 status in 2016, after remaining in Tier 2 for five years from 2011-2015, and in the Tier 2 Watchlist before that.
The Philippines was the first and the only Southeast Asian country to have achieved the status, sealing a regional leadership position in combating trafficking in persons. — RSJ/KVD, GMA News