By Edz dela Cruz



Despite the formation of specialized anti-trafficking units, special teams of prosecutors and investigators, and the passage of an anti-trafficking law a decade ago, human trafficking continues to be “carried out with impunity” in the country, says Joy Ngozi Ezeilo,United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children

In fact, Ezeilo reports that despite all the resources and attention the government claims to have given to the problem, there have only been two convictions related to human trafficking in the country.

Ezeilo had visited the Philippines in November this year as part of her mission to investigate the problem of human trafficking and assess the efforts by governments to curb the problem.

After her visit here, Ezeilo observed that the Philippines has undoubtedly become a source country for human trafficking mainly due to poverty and a big demand for cheap and exploitative labor.The problem has grown to “alarming” proportions over the years, she observes.

Despite this, however, the Philippine government’s efforts to fight trafficking have been largely inadequate and the rate of prosecution of human traffickers low, Ezeilo says.

As UN Special Rapporteur, Ezeilo is tasked to respond effectively to reliable information on possible human rights violations, especially all forms and manifestations of trafficking. During her stay, Ezeilo gathered first-hand information on current legislative and institutional programs that tackle human trafficking in Manila, Cebu, and Zamboanga.

According to Ezeilo, despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003, government authorities still have low levels of awareness, knowledge, and skills in identifying cases of trafficking. This has resulted to uneven and layered implementation of the law at the regional and local levels. Ezeilo also noted the lack of standardized collection of statistical information that tracks the prevailing rate, forms, trends, and manifestation of human trafficking.

She however, acknowledged that the Anti-Trafficking Law has provided a forum for stakeholders to coordinate with government in monitoring human trafficking and created regional and provincial councils against trafficking.

The way Ezeilo sees it through, such efforts to prevent and combat trafficking will not be effective and sustainable so long as “the underlying social, economic, and political factors that create an environment conducive to trafficking” are addressed. Such factors include poverty, youth unemployment, gender inequality, discrimination, and gender-based violence.

At the end of her report, Ezeilo enumerates several interim recommendations that could help the government combat human trafficking.Among these are: providing training on human trafficking to state authorities and law enforcement officials; establishment of a specialized court to fast track trial of trafficking cases; in-depth research on human trafficking to develop tools and build systematic data collection; the launch of widespread campaigns to raise public awareness; and appointment of a rapporteur to coordinate all anti-trafficking initiatives.

Ezeilo, a Nigerian national, teaches at the University of Nigeria and specializes in Human Rights law. She assumed her functions as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons in August 2008.

A full report of Ngozi’s findings in this mission will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013.


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