Senator Win Gatchalian has declared victory in upholding the rights and safety of Filipino children after the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on a measure that seeks to strengthen the country’s anti-trafficking laws. Gatchalian is one of the co-authors and co-sponsors of the measure.
The bicam report resolved the differences between Senate Bill No. 2449 and House Bill No. 10658. The measure’s short title is the Expanded Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act of 2022. The measure would provide additional tools and allow greater agility to law enforcement agents in running after human traffickers, both offline and online.
Under the measure, internet intermediaries, including social media networks, and financial intermediaries will also be held liable for allowing their platforms to be used for trafficking. The measure also increases protections to victims of trafficking, including Filipino victims overseas.
Gatchalian emphasized that children are among the most vulnerable to trafficking crimes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that in 2021, it has received more than 2.8 million reports of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), more than twice the nearly 1.3 million reports for 2020. In its annual report, the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime (OOC) said that it launched official investigations on 268 OSEC cases, almost four times the 73 cases handled in 2020.
“Ang ating mga kabataan ang humaharap sa pinakamatinding panganib pagdating sa human trafficking at nakita natin ang lalong pagtaas ng panganib simula nang tumama ang pandemya. Kaya naman napapapanahon nang paigtingin natin ang ating mga batas upang masugpo natin nang tuluyan ang mga krimeng ito at itaguyod natin ang kaligtasan ng mga kabataang Pilipino,” said Gatchalian.
The OOC clarified, however, that most of the 2.8 million reports received were not actionable since these have been submitted multiple times or were misleading or erroneously reported.
According to the United States Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report for the Philippines, most of the 73 convicted traffickers in the country under the anti-trafficking and related laws subjected children to sex trafficking, with 25 who sexually exploited children online.
Gatchalian also thanked Senator Risa Hontiveros, Chairperson of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, for sponsoring the measure.