In a bid to add teeth to the government’s campaign against illegal recruitment, Sen. Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure in the Senate seeking to lower the number of perpetrators from three to two to qualify as large-scale illegal recruitment.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate justice committee, filed Senate Bill No. 961 redefining the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate as a group of three or more persons formed to carry out illegal deployment of Filipino workers abroad.
“Illegal recruitment is a menace to the society. It is one of the most detestable crimes a Filipino can commit to another Filipino, a crime that has brought about sufferings to thousands of poor and innocent victims and their families,” she said.
“Their victims, who dreamed of landing high paying jobs abroad, instead find themselves financially and emotionally distressed. Worse, many of them fell into the hand of traffickers or landed in jails as a consequence.”
The US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report once downgraded the Philippines to Tier 2 watch list, which includes countries whose government do not comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of the US.
It was through the efforts of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) chaired by De Lima as Justice Secretary under the previous administration that the Philippines has been upgraded to Tier 1 status, in recognition of its compliance with the global standards.
“The challenge ahead is how to maintain such Tier 1 ranking as to decisively and palpably defeat the scourge which is human trafficking. Illegal recruitment continues to proliferate despite government campaigns and stiffer penalties,” she emphasized.
Under the Labor Code of the Philippines and Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, illegal recruitment is generally committed by a syndicate or a group of three or more persons who intend to carry out illegal transactions or scheme.
“Unfortunately, persons accused of illegal recruitment by a syndicate often evade by simply alleging that the victim failed to establish that the crime was carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring with one another,” she noted.
“Despite government campaigns and stiffer penalties imposed, illegal recruitment continues to proliferate. Every year, hundreds of victims still fall prey to illegal recruiters,” she added.
Under the present law, illegal recruitment by a syndicate is meted with life imprisonment and a fine of not less than PhP 2 million but not more than PhP 5 million.
If passed into law, SB No. 961 will amend the definition of syndicate by lowering the number of perpetrators from three to two to qualify as illegal recruitment by a syndicate.
“Sa panukalang batas na ito, tatapusin natin ang maliligayang sandali ng mga umaabuso sa mga butas ng batas. Wawakasan natin ang modus ng mga sindikatong ito, at sisiguruhing marangal na makakapagtrabaho ang ating mga OFW,” she added.