Little Prosecution of Trafficking in Philippines
Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:32 AM

The Philippines is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking.  According to, between 300,000 and 400,000 women are trafficked each year.  Many traffickers operate with impunity in the Philippines, despite passage of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (Republic Act 9208) in 2003.  Since RA 9208 came into effect, there have only been 12 convictions. 

Potential trafficking is sometimes stopped by a requirement that Filipino women obtain a clearance certificate from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas before working abroad.  During this process, some women are able to report exploitative situations.  Due to problems in the judicial system, however, many of these cases cannot be successfully prosecuted.

The U.S. State Department 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report states that “the government’s ability to effectively prosecute trafficking crimes is severely limited by an inefficient judicial system and endemic corruption.”  Judge turnover, non-continuous trials, and a shortage of judges and courtrooms often cause trials to take years.  Because of this delay in prosecution, some victims withdraw their testimony. For these reasons, the Philippines was downgraded to Tier 2 watch-list status by the 2009 report.

When victims escape from traffickers, it is more difficult to prove exploitation under the law.  In cases of forced marriage abroad, traffickers may be prosecuted under the Anti-Mail Order Bride Act (Republic Act 6955) instead of RA 9208 to make conviction more likely.  However, the maximum sentence for RA 6955 is only eight years, while life imprisonment is the maximum sentence for RA 9208.

Compiled from: “Philippines: Legal System Falls Short on Human Trafficking,” IRIN News, 22 July 2009.