Trafficking victims easily paid off: prosecutor
CASES of human trafficking are most often left hanging without a complainant and witness after victims are bribed by respondents, Regional State Prosecutor Antonio Arellano said.
This is often the case because the problem of human trafficking emanates from poverty and lack of opportunities to earn a living. Thus, victims are easily dissuaded from pursuing a case in exchange for money, Arellano added.
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As a result, cases are dropped for insufficiency of evidence.
"May kaso nga, wala naman kaming witness, so wala kaming evidence. Kahit may nangyaring crime, if you cannot establish the existence of the crime with evidence in court that is just statistics, you cannot call the culprits liable," Arellano said.
He said they conducted a study of the various cases they handled on trafficking in persons (TIP) to find out how best to address the issue and they found out that at the very bottom of it all is poverty.
Thus, the more effective way of controlling TIP is through a poverty alleviation program, he said.
"Kasi kung i-analyze mo, kapit sa patalim ang pag-alis ng tao kahit na hindi niya alam anong mangyayari sa kanya because wala siyang alternative na hanapbuhay dito," he said.
"The program is a long term realization but the problem must be addressed regularly," he added.
That does not mean they will not continue prosecuting TIP cases.
He said law enforcers are committed to uphold the 2003 United Nations Protocol Against Human Trafficking.
As such, the Philippines has the Interagency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) chaired by Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Leila de Lima and is now being implemented through Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar.
Each region should have a counterpart body called the Regional Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Riacat), every city should have the City Regional Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Ciacat), and every municipality should have the Municipal Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Miacat).
"So kami nasa Riacat, all the agencies composing this are identified by the law that is chaired by me and co-chaired by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)," Arellano said.
The Riacat here was launched last January 28 with the intent to fast-track hearing of cases and increase conviction rates.
Without the cooperation of the victims, these efforts may be for naught.
"Ang aming na-convict maliit lang, actually up to 2011, apat lang," he said.
"The problem of trafficking is really a matter of consequence of poverty and some cultural factors," he said, adding a poverty alleviation program is very important.
Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte initiated a summit on human trafficking last Thursday because of a growing number of trafficked women and children to and from the city.
Duterte wanted to enhance the capabilities of government agencies in addressing this problem not only from the point of view of prosecution.
Recently, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Davao arrested and sued a Japanese and Indian couple for violation of Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act; violation of Anti-Mail Order Bride, unjust vexation; and violation of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, after allegedly posting photos of a woman and a minor on a match-making website.
The two were arrested at Tessa's Place in Gravahan, Matina, around 9:30 p.m. of July 6.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 11, 2011.