MANILA: A senior Malacanang Palace official reported that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino has signed an expanded law against human trafficking including the imposition of stiffer penalties like a maximum prison term of 40 years and heftier fines on violators.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda, the presidential spokesman, pointed out that in signing the law, Aquino recognised the urgent need to make the government campaign against human trafficking more effective.
“This is a concern and a priority of the president and this measure will be enforced by the different agencies especially by the Department of Justice as well as our police agencies,” Lacierda said.
The expanded law, Lacierda said, imposes stiffer penalties and sanctions particularly on human traffickers who prey on women and children in disaster-hit areas in the Philippines.
For instance, he said, the new law imposes on violators a prison term of from six to a maximum of 40 years as well as heftier fines ranging from $1,000 to as much as $125,000.
According to Lacierda, recruitment in the guise of domestic or overseas deployment for sexual exploitation, forced labour or involuntary debt bondage are now considered as human trafficking.
Also covered by the new law, Lacierda said, are the recruitment of Filipino women to marry a foreigner, engagement in “sex tourism,” recruitment for organ removal as well as recruitment of a “child warrior” to engage in armed activities abroad.
In a separate interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, said: “The signing of the new law will give the government a stronger weapon against human trafficking syndicates.”
De Lima also expressed confidence the new law would improve the Philippines status in the annual US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
She noted the Philippines has been upgraded to the Tier 2 category in the 2011 State Department report, meaning an “important recognition of the country’s sustained and aggressive initiatives and programmes to eliminate human trafficking.”