By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 14, 2013 at 12:01am
President Aquino has signed into law the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act which the government hopes would boost the chances of the country in getting an upgrade in the US State Department’s human trafficking list.
“We hope that with this expanded coverage of anti-trafficking, we will be able to remove ourselves from Tier 2. This is a concern and a priority of our President and this measure will be enforced by the different agencies especially the Department of Justice as well as our police agencies,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
The country was removed from the Tier 2 watchlist in 2011 but was kept at Tier 2 in the US State Department report last year.
Republic Act No. 10364, signed on Feb. 6, included a provision directing the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to create a blacklist of recruitment agencies, illegal recruiters and persons facing administrative, civil and criminal complaints for trafficking.
The blacklist would be posted in conspicuous places in government agencies and shall be updated monthly.
Senator Loren Legarda, principal author of the measure, said the new law would provide added protection not just for victims of trafficking “but also, to a reasonable extent, law enforcement officers and social workers from harassment suits for lawful acts done in good faith during authorized rescue operations, investigation or prosecution of a case.”
The new law fills the void in the existing law by expanding the list of acts that promote trafficking, to include an act to destroy or tamper with evidence, to influence witnesses in an investigation, or to utilize one’s public office to impede an investigation or to obstruct the execution of lawful orders,” Legarda added.
The new law establishes free legal assistance to overseas Filipino workers by the Department of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment, which will be in charge of providing temporary shelter to Filipino victims of trafficking overseas.
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