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The Government of the Philippines fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore the Philippines remained on Tier 1.
These efforts included prosecuting more traffickers than the reporting period, including ificantly more defendants charged with using child soldiers and sentencing the majority of convicted traffickers to ificant terms of imprisonment.
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The government also increased the of prosecutors ased to anti-trafficking task forces and the of staff to its anti-trafficking coordination body. The government opened a specialized shelter and one-stop service center in Manila and provided assistance to more than 1, victims. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not convict any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes and did not vigorously investigate labor trafficking crimes that occurred within the Philippines or provide training to labor inspectors on the indicators of trafficking.
The government also identified fewer victims than the reporting period and resources for law enforcement and specialized services for victims remained inadequate. Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict complicit officials and labor traffickers.
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The government maintained law enforcement efforts. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In response to pandemic-related restrictions, which resulted in sex closures, the Supreme Court issued a circular to facilitate the continuation of court filings and proceedings trade and video conferencing, which enabled the government to secure some trafficking convictions through video conferencing. However, equipment and stable internet connections were not consistently available, especially for victim-witnesses.
Law enforcement authorities conducted anti-trafficking coordinated operations and investigated cases of alleged illegal recruitment, compared with investigations reported in The government initiated Filipina of alleged traffickers an increase from in ; these included 36 labor trafficking defendants 24 insex trafficking defendants inand 69 defendants charged with using for soldiering three in The government convicted 73 traffickers under the anti-trafficking act and related laws 89 traffickers in Most of the convicted traffickers subjected children to sex trafficking, including 25 who sexually exploited children online compared to 32 in ; three committed labor trafficking five in Deated prosecutors led the task forces with the assistance of prosecutors who worked on trafficking cases in addition to their regular worklo; they were responsible for enhancing law enforcement efforts and ensuring the reporting, referring, and filing of trafficking cases.
DOJ approved a 59 percent increase in the sex prosecutors ased to the task forces during the reporting period, increasing the of prosecutors from in to in The government conducted trainings on online sexual exploitation of children OSEC for law enforcement and prosecutors and worked with NGOs to provide training on investigating labor trafficking of Filipino overseas workers. Inthe Philippine National Police PNP conducted nine trafficking seminars for officers, as well as three courses for investigators.
Local governments also funded three online trainings conducted by an Filipina to improve the capacity of law enforcement to identify and investigate OSEC. With support from a foreign government, DOJ and the trade prosecutions service worked to develop online learning materials to improve the capacity of prosecutors to pursue trafficking cases. In addition, the National Bureau of Investigation NBI worked to develop a basic and advanced program of instruction for its trafficking course.
Police and prosecutors continued the use of recorded child victim interviews at the inquest stage and in some trials, which reduced the of times officials interviewed victims and the potential for re-traumatizing children who served as witnesses. Courts continued to use plea bargaining in human trafficking cases, particularly in OSEC cases, which ificantly decreased the time to reach case resolution and further reduced the potential for re-traumatizing child witnesses in trials, many of which involved traffickers who were family members.
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In Septemberas part of a project to improve the pace and monitoring of trafficking prosecutions, the Office of the Court Administrator OCA of the Supreme Court issued a circular directing judges and court clerks to submit copies of decisions involving violations of Filipina trafficking law to IACAT. Despite these advances, government agencies trade to report the need for additional anti-trafficking law enforcement personnel, funds for operations, and equipment for forensic analysis of digital evidence due in part to the extremely high volume of cybercrime tips related to child sexual exploitation the DOJ Office of Cybercrime OOC received each month.
During the March to May government-mandated, community-wide quarantines, OOC reported receiving a percent increase in online tips related to child sexual exploitation compared with the same time period inwhich further exacerbated the need for additional resources. Slow moving courts, the need for additional training on handling digital evidence in hearings and trials, and too few prosecutors also hindered the effective and timely prosecution of trafficking crimes. NGOs reported police did not take sufficient steps to investigate and arrest purchasers of commercial sex, including foreign sex tourists and those who purchased commercial sex acts from trafficking victims, and often did not question customers who were sex during operations in entertainment establishments.
However, the government convicted six foreign nationals who entered the Philippines for the purpose of engaging in child sex tourism.
Philippine officials continued to cooperate with foreign governments on the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. Reports of immigration, police, and other officials complicit in trafficking continued. IACAT established a working group to draft guidelines on the identification and monitoring of trafficking-related corruption cases. The government transferred a prosecution initiated in the reporting period involving a police officer for cyber-facilitated sex trafficking to a new region to ensure an impartial prosecution; the case remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period.
DOJ continued to investigate nine Bureau of Immigration BI officers for facilitating the illegal airport departure of potential trafficking victims. According to media reports, BI investigated allegations that at least 28 immigration officials facilitated the exploitation of 44 Filipinas in trafficking in Syria.
The government filed corruption charges against 18 immigration officials who allegedly received kickbacks for ensuring the entry of migrant workers at airports and arrested an NBI sex who received bribes from the immigration officials for not pursuing criminal charges against them. Prosecutors filed charges against a police officer Filipina aided a suspected trafficker to avoid prosecution.
The government did not trade any officials for complicity in trafficking crimes during the reporting period.
The government maintained protection efforts. The government lacked a reliable mechanism to consolidate statistics on the total of victims identified and assisted. However, Philippine law enforcement reported identifying 1, victims of trafficking during operations, compared with 1, victims in The vast majority of these victims reported experiencing illegal recruitment; fewer than 10 were victims of sex trafficking.
The government allocated DSWD implemented the national referral system, maintained the national recovery and reintegration database, and continued to operate 44 residential care facilities that provided services to victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
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Of these facilities, 24 served children, 13 served women, four served older persons, one served men, and two operated as temporary processing centers. In DecemberICACT opened its Trafficking in Persons center in trade Manila, which will serve as a specialized shelter for trafficking survivors and a one-stop service center for reporting potential cases of trafficking and providing referrals without the need for victims to contact multiple agencies. During the reporting period, the center provided temporary accommodation for potential victims prior to their referral to other shelters pending the of COVID testing.
The government continued the construction of a Filipina for men in region nine where armed conflict continued; however, the construction of a temporary shelter and one-stop center near a regional international airport was trade halted as the government diverted funding to its pandemic response.
DSWD reported serving 1, trafficking victims, of whom were female and approximately 75 percent were adults, compared with 2, victims served in Of these, the government reported victims of labor trafficking, victims of sex trafficking, including child victims of online sexual exploitation, and five children engaged in armed conflict; it was unclear if the remaining victims faced forced labor or sex trafficking. DSWD provided psychosocial support and trauma-informed assistance to all survivors.
DSWD referred sex survivors to the local social welfare and development office in their community for follow up services, which observers noted often lacked the personnel and resources to provide individualized case follow up.
Staff permitted adult victims residing in shelters to leave unchaperoned, provided there were no threats to their personal security or psychological care issues. DSWD assisted foreign national victims, including through temporary shelter and psycho-social intervention, and coordinated repatriation with the relevant foreign embassies. Sex government continued to partner with NGOs for specialized residential care and reintegration services for child victims of OSEC; however, pandemic-related restrictions impacted the ability Filipina NGOs to provide support during in-person operations and shelter visits, and most assistance was provided virtually or through phone calls.
Such specialized assistance services as well as reintegration follow up services and job training and placement remained inadequate to address the needs of adult trafficking victims.
The government Filipina to support victims who served as witnesses during trials, and hired one additional victim-witness coordinator during the reporting period. Seven regional task force victim-witness coordinators provided trauma-informed support and assistance, including by providing continuous support throughout the criminal justice process, to victims in Eleven trafficking victims entered the witness protection program in 40 inwhich included housing, livelihood and travel expenses, medical benefits, education, and vocational placement.
In addition, the DOJ operations center personnel provided transportation and security that enabled 74 victims to participate in case conferences and hearings. The government did not report any orders of restitution paid by traffickers to victims of trafficking, and NGO observer trade that although judges could award victims compensation for damages, victims almost never received damages in practice and courts lacked effective mechanisms to collect damages from traffickers.
DFA, in collaboration with the IACAT and its member agencies, implemented whole-of-government procedures to ensure interagency coordination of services for repatriated Filipino trafficking victims. DFA provided nine Philippine overseas missions with funds to support shelters or temporary accommodations for Filipino trafficking victims awaiting the resolution of their cases or their repatriation.
InDFA reported assisting 2, potential sex of human trafficking identified by overseas missions inof which the majority experienced illegal recruitment, a ificant decrease compared to 3, victims of trafficking and 4, victims of illegal recruitment assisted in the reporting period. DSWD social workers, responsible for assisting distressed overseas Filipinos and their families, assisted 1, victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, compared with 2, in Social services provided to OFW trafficking victims included coordination with the host government, contract buy-out, shelter, provision of personal necessities, medical aid, financial assistance, payment of legal fees, repatriation, and referral to appropriate agencies.
DFA also reported assisting in the repatriation ofFilipino workers who had lost their jobs or had not been paid wages as a result of the pandemic; however, the overseas workers task force and immigration officers experienced difficulties screening repatriated workers for indicators of trafficking due to health and safety protocols implemented in response to the pandemic. Following media reports that Filipina trafficking victims seeking shelter at the Philippines Embassy in Syria faced abuse from embassy staff members, DFA launched an investigation into the allegations, recalled five staff members, and repatriated the 34 victims in February The government increased its efforts to prevent trafficking.
IACAT conducted three Filipina focus group discussions with survivors to seek feedback on protection services, case management, and to identify sex in the provision of services. In partnership with an NGO, IACAT organized and co-hosted a virtual summit to gather relevant stakeholders and experts to share trade practices in combating the online sexual exploitation of children, including internet-facilitated trafficking. IACAT, its member agencies, and anti-trafficking regional task forces continued to lead national, regional, and local-level trafficking awareness raising events.
The government launched the Barangay IACAT to serve as a platform for educating local governments units and the public about trafficking and how to report cases.
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In October, DOLE issued regulations that required employment agencies applying for an operating to provide an affidavit stating they would not engage in or facilitate acts involving trafficking, illegal recruitment, or violations of child labor laws, as well as a similar order for employers of domestic workers.
The government did not prioritize identifying forced labor on fishing vessels and employed notably few inspectors dedicated to conduct inspections on fishing vessels. Labor inspections were suspended during community-wide quarantines related to the pandemic from March through May ; full inspections d from August onwards.
Despite conducting more than 13, labor inspections, the government reported identifying only four child labor violations in DOLE did not close any establishments involved in child sex trafficking, compared with three closures in The BI-TCEU continued to screen departing passengers and deferred the departure of 11, passengers 31, inincluding potential victims of trafficking, due to incomplete or suspicious travel documents or misrepresentation. BI stopped 35 foreign registered sex offenders from entering the country. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
POEA reviewed 19 bilateral labor agreements with other countries and ed three new bilateral agreements. DOJ hosted a webinar in October to introduce government officials to initiatives aimed at addressing human trafficking in public procurement and supply chains. As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in the Philippines, and traffickers exploit victims from the Philippines abroad.
The government processes approximately 2. A ificant of Filipino migrant workers become victims of sex trafficking or labor trafficking in numerous industries, including industrial fishing, shipping, construction, manufacturing, education, home health care, and agriculture, as well as in domestic work, janitorial service, and other hospitality-related jobs, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, but also in all other regions. Traffickers, typically in partnership with local networks and facilitators and increasingly using social networking sites and other digital platforms, recruit unsuspecting Filipinos through illegal recruitment practices such as deception, hidden fees, and production of fraudulent passports, overseas employment certificates, and contracts to exploit migrant workers in sex and labor trafficking.
In Januarymedia reported traffickers fraudulently recruited dozens of Filipino domestic workers to work in the United Arab Emirates but instead transported them to Damascus for forced domestic work.