The Regional Peace and Order Council finalized the draft of the memorandum of agreement on full implementation of the Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 in Central Visayas to be signed by at least seven government agencies, the four provinces and highly urbanized cities in the region, and representatives of the private sector. This was made during their recent regional meeting in Dumaguete City.
The MOA has been designed to establish and implement preventive, protective, and rehabilitative programs for trafficked persons and get full cooperation of front-line agencies and the private sector.
It has long been the advocacy of the RPOC-7 even in past years, and especially after the Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane disclosed that some syndicates are into human trafficking for sex tourism and removal or sale of organs and that there are those disguising the practice in legal adoption.
Gubalane heads the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force in the region.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) had created a task force some years ago and that they even had an operational plan then. After the enactment of RA 9208, the PNP has become a part of the law enforcement task force under the Regional Task Force which headed by Gubalane.
Governor Edgar Chatto and Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia had earlier agreed to get the act of all agencies together to fight human trafficking.
Chatto had cited the incident wherein young women from Bohol had been victimized, and the culprits were intercepted in Cebu.
“Cebu is a vital center because most of transportation is coming in from Cebu. It would help to get the information through strong advocacies at the provincial level, at the barangay level and even at the purok level, because this is where the first signals of trafficking come from. Then they pass through the community, and then the ports,” according to Chatto.
The RPOC-7 members started drafting the MOA in the past RPOC-7 meetings.
In the meeting of RPOC-7 in Dumaguete City, presided by Chatto as chair, the MOA had been finalized among the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); Department of Justice (DOJ); PNP; 802nd Brigade and 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army; Department of Interior and Local Government; the governors of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor; mayors of Cebu City, Mandaue and Lapulapu which are HUCs; and representatives of the private sector.
Chatto explained that the actual signing will be scheduled later when he already gets an authority to sign from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
Representatives of the regional offices of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Office of the Civil Defense, Philippine Management Staff, Philippine Information Agency, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, National Commission on Indigenous people and other members of the RPOC-7 are also expected to sign as witnesses.
This is to ensure efficient implementation of RA 9208 that recognizes the value of the “dignity of every human person and guarantees the respect of individual rights”.
The law has also been intended to “give highest priority to the enactment of measures and development of programs that will promote human dignity, protect the people from any threat of violence and exploitation, eliminate trafficking in persons, and mitigate pressures for involuntary migration and servitude of persons”.
Aside from supporting trafficked persons, it also ensures they are recovered, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the mainstream of society.
DETAILS OF THE MOA
Among the basis of the MOA are the “United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime including its protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking persons, especially women and children and all other relevant and universally accepted human rights instruments and other international conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory”.
In the MOA, the DFA will make is resources and facilities available for trafficked persons “regardless of their manner of entry to the receiving country”, and shall establish closer networking with government agencies in the country and overseas to explore means to enhance its capacity to assist in the efforts to eliminate trafficking activities.
DFA is also tasked to implement a pre-marriage, on-site and pre-departure counseling program on inter-marriages.
It is also expected to implement “machine readable passports to protect the integrity of Philippine passports, visas and other travel documents to reduce the incidence of trafficking through the use of fraudulent identification documents”.
DOLE, for its part, has monitor, document and report cases of trafficking OF persons involving employers and labor recruiters.
DOJ will ensure prosecution of persons responsible in the practice of trafficking of persons. It shall also designate and train special prosecutors who can handle and prosecute trafficking cases.
It shall also facilitate free legal assistance for trafficked persons, in coordination with DSWD, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and other non-government organizations and volunteer groups.
ROLES OF THE PNP AND DILG
PNP is expected to closely coordinate with various law enforcement agencies in the investigation and apprehension of suspected traffickers and shall establish a system to receive complaints and calls to assist victims and conduct rescue operations.
The DILG is tasked to “institute a systematic information and prevention campaign and maintain a databank for the effective monitoring, documentation and prosecution of cases”.
The four provinces and the HUCs in Central Visayas will also undertake their own monitoring and documentation of cases of trafficking in persons in their respective jurisdictions, effect the cancellation of licenses of establishments which violate RA 9208 and ensure effective prosecution of the cases.
The concerned local government units shall also undertake information campaign by establishing Migrants Advisory and Information Network (MAIN) desks in their areas in coordination with DILG, PIA, Commission on Filipino Overseas, NGOs and other concerned agencies.
They also have to encourage and support community-based initiatives which address the problem.
Agencies concerned may also seek and enlist the assistance of NGOs, people’s organizations, civic organizations and other volunteer groups.
The MOA involves the role of the private sector in advocating the implementation of RA 9208 by providing support to the programs and activities of the concerned agencies.
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