Strengthening Communities Toward Reliance to Disasters and Human Trafficking Prevention


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On the Occasion of the Danajon Communities WATCH’s 1st Provincial Summit 2016

Hilongos, Leyte

August 19, 2016

To Mayor Albert Villahermosa, Executive Director Aloysius Mariae Cañete, other officials and members of Danajon Communities WATCH, foreign consulates present, representatives from international and national non-government organizations, fellow workers in government, friends, participants, guests, ladies and gentlemen:

A pleasant morning to all.

First of all, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude for being invited to be part of this first Provincial Summit. It is an honor and privilege to speak before you today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.

I also extend my congratulations to the Danajon Communities Working for the Advancement of Disaster Resilience to Combat Human Trafficking, or the Danajon Communities WATCH Consortium for successfully organizing this very significant event. This provides a platform where you can share your views and good practices to strengthen our initiatives towards disaster risk reduction and human trafficking.

I learned that this is the third year of your project’s implementation. Your organization is truly selfless in serving our communities.

Sa ngalan po ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ng mga natulungan ninyong maging handa sa sakuna at sa banta ng human trafficking, maraming maraming salamat sa tulong ninyo. 

You have displayed utmost dedication and commitment in keeping the public informed and equipped, so as to avoid becoming victims of unlawful groups and syndicates. Together with the LGUs, organizations such as yourselves serve as gatekeepers in ensuring that preventive measures are in place. Consequently, you also serve as the last line of defense to ensure these measures succeed.

There is no doubt that community action and cooperation acting together will definitely go a long way in protecting our environment and reducing cases of human trafficking. The efforts we put now shall benefit children and the next generations to come.

As Senator, rest assured that I am one with you in the pursuit of uplifting our society— from safeguarding the environment and mitigating the effect of climate change, to protecting human rights, strengthening the criminal justice system, and upholding transparency and accountability in public office.

Let me reiterate: I strongly condemn human trafficking. It is one of the most detestable crimes that has brought much suffering to thousands of poor Filipinos and innocent victims and their families, here and abroad.

During my tenure as Justice Secretary, I served as Chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). I was blessed to have worked with a team of passionate and deeply committed anti-human trafficking advocates in the DOJ/IACAT, in collaboration with our NGO partners.

Just this July, we welcomed the upgrading of the Philippines to Tier 1— the highest ranking by the US State Department in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. We consider it as a remarkable feat for the Philippines to have achieved Tier 1 status, after its consistent Tier 2 ranking since 2011. Prior to that, our country was on the Tier 2 watchlist, which included countries whose governments did not comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of the US.

The challenge ahead is how to maintain TIER 1 ranking, so as to put an end on the proliferation of this illegal activity that is a menace to our society.

Seryosong usapin ang human trafficking, kaya naman kailangan nating paigtingin ang ating mga batas para parusahan ang mga nasa likod nito. Nais nating bigyang hustisya ang mga biktima at ilayo ang kapwa Pilipino sa tukso ng mga manloloko.

In connection with this, one of the bills I filed in the Senate seeks to lower the number of perpetrators from three to two to qualify as large-scale illegal recruitment of Overseas Filipino Workers. Many of our countrymen who dreamed of high paying jobs abroad have fallen into the hands of human traffickers and have ended up in jails as a consequence.

Unfortunately, there are loopholes in our existing laws that permit the persons accused of illegal recruitment by a syndicate to often evade the law by simply alleging that the victim failed to establish the crime was carried out by three or more persons. I am confident that once the proposed bill is passed, this will add teeth to the government’s campaign against illegal recruitment, thereby reducing the cases of human trafficking

It is with this same principle that also I filed a bill redefining the definition of syndicated estafa or other forms of swindling to be punishable by life imprisonment. This bill seeks to reduce the minimum number of people involved in syndicated estafa as crime from five to two.

Mahalaga po sa atin ang pagsusulong ng mga batas tungo sa patas at makatwirang lipunan. Hindi po tama na ang perang pinaghirapan natin ay sasamantalahin lamang ng iba.

As we strive to prevent abuses on Filipinos, so too do we want to streamline and strengthen the process of criminal investigation. As I have said before, cases languish in Philippine courts for an average of eight to 10 years, given that the ideal period for resolving cases is only one to two years.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), in 2013, lower courts were continuously confronted with heavy volumes of caseload, with an average of a million cases per year or equivalent to an average of around 4,200 cases per working day.[1]

Under this bill, the investigating law enforcer and the prosecutor shall work together in investigating a crime so that the administration of criminal justice will be faster and more efficient.

Amid calls to reinstate the death penalty, I also filed qualified reclusion perpetua for heinous crimes which  proposes to introduce a new penalty of imprisonment. It is clear that imposition of the death penalty has not been shown to prevent crimes, thus what is needed is to first fix our criminal justice system to ensure swift delivery of justice.

Aside from these, I also filed Anti-Criminal Exploitation of Children bill— which defines the criminal exploitation of children, and imposes higher penalties for all crimes involving them; the Barangay Term Extension Bill; Bank Secrecy Law Amendments, and Prohibition of Black Sand Mining; among others.

Others in the pipeline of my legislative agenda include the Proceeds of Crime Act or POCA, strengthening of Witness Protection Program, whistleblowers’ protection, new Code of Crimes, and the setting up of a proper framework for faster and cheaper internet.

I am confident that with these bills, as well as with your help and support, we will be able to meet the needs of our countrymen, and create equitable opportunity across the Philippines.

Before I end, I would like to invite you to monitor the upcoming Senate inquiry on August 22-23 on the spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions in relation to the administration’s war on drugs.

Our objective is clear: to improve our system of laws in connection with the prevention and investigation of rising cases of killings, and those relating to the mechanisms of accountability for whoever is involved in these abhorrent activities.

Ang hangad natin: Malaman ang katotohanan sa likod ng mga nangyayaring patayan. Hindi tayo pwedeng habambuhay na lang na manahimik sa karahasan sa ating komunidad. Kung hindi tayo kikilos, magpapatuloy ang pagyurak sa ating mga karapatan, hanggang sa malagay sa peligro ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino.

Extrajudicial killings and summary executions must stop. These acts are illegal, immoral, and a blatant disregard of human rights.

I will not let this opportunity to serve the Filipino people go to waste. Gagawin ko ang lahat ng aking makakaya upang gampanan ang trabaho ko bilang mambabatas. Anumang paninira nila sa aking pagkatao, anumang kasinungalingan ang ibato nila para panghinaan ako ng loob, hindi ako kailanman aatras. Patuloy akong papanig sa katotohanan, patuloy akong magiging tapat na lingkod-bayan at kinatawan ng sambayanan. 

I look forward to working with each of you in our endeavor to turn our collective goals into reality. With your steadfast support and solidarity, we can bequeath a brighter, more resilient, and more inclusive futurefor the generations to come.

Thank you and good day.

[1] Date last accessed 18/08/2016.

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