Senator Win Gatchalian expressed his gratitude to the Department of Education (DepEd) for throwing its full support behind his measure, the Human Trafficking Preventive Education Program Act (Senate Bill No. 992), which aims to protect the youth from becoming victims of human trafficking.
“Although everyone is focused on the fight against drugs, human trafficking remains a real and present problem of our country. That is why we propose to institutionalize this fight, to make it more extensive without adding so much burden to the schools,” he said.
The bill seeks to create a comprehensive Human Trafficking Preventive Program that aims to inculcate among the youth their fundamental rights as persons, educate them on the dangers of human trafficking in its various forms, and arm them with information on the services made available by the government and other non-government organizations to protect them from human trafficking.
The program shall be established by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which will implement the program through school-based and community-based tracks.
During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Youth chaired by Senator Joel Villanueva, DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali lauded Gatchalian’s bill as it institutionalizes and further strengthens the agency’s Child Protection Policy (or DepEd Order No. 40, series of 2012).
“Hopefully this [bill] would become a law. It will now become a mandate that cannot be changed by any administration who may ever sit to head our department,” Umali said.
Gatchalian, a former local executive, narrated his previous encounters with victims of human trafficking activities who fell prey to syndicates due their innocence and lack of guidance, while there were also those who willingly chose to engage in dangerous activities out of a desperate need to support their families.
“Human trafficking is a silent crime that victimizes our students, primarily because of poverty. With the power of social media, more people as young as 15 years old are even enticed to get involved in crimes like prostitution and forced labor. That’s what we want to prevent – that they become willing victims of human trafficking,” he said.