Life Imprisonment Ordered in Trafficking Case in Philippines
Monday, October 6, 2008 3:00 PM

A Filipino court ordered a woman to life in prison for trafficking seven children for sexual exploitation. The case, decided in June 2008 by Judge Florencio Arellano in the Batangas Regional Trial Court, relied on the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in his conviction. The victims were told they were to be hired as waitresses, but then discovered they had been lured into sexual slavery.

This landmark case was the first time a person was convicted under the Act when the exploitation had not been “consummated,” according to Roland Pacis, deputy executive director of the victims support organization Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF). Exploitation is usually one of the three requirements for conviction of trafficking; the other two are deception and transfer or movement. In this case, intent to exploit was found to be sufficient. The intent was proven by testimony from the victims.

Under the Act, 155 cases have been reported to the Department of Justice, 56 cases have been filed, and only seven have won. The law allows for sentences up to life imprisonment for trafficking. The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking is the legal body which monitors and implements the Act.

Although prostitution and trafficking are illegal in the Philippines, they remain rampant. The Philippines is used for trafficking to and from, as well as a transit point. According to the U.S. Department of State, “300,000 to 400,000 women and from 60,000 to 100,000 children were trafficked annually” in 2006. Philippines - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (6 March 2007).

Fighting trafficking in a legal capacity has been difficult due to slowness of the courts, lack of resources, and corruption. Moreover, many cases are dismissed early on for lack of alleged probable cause, said Jean Enriquez, deputy director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific. NGOs and the government provide services to victims of trafficking. The Virlanie Foundation, for example, assists child prostitutes with housing, training and counseling. The government offers trafficked people temporary immigration status, deportation relief, and shelter, and medical, psychological and legal services.

Compiled from: Philippines: Trafficking issues "not taken seriously,” IRIN, 19 September 2008; Philippines - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (6 March 2007); Landmark Trafficking Conviction, Visayan Forum Foundation (2008); Bagayaua, Gemma, Life imprisonment for the country’s 11th human trafficking convict, Newsbreak (7 July 2008).