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Sen. Gatchalian urges Pres. Duterte to prioritize human trafficking concerns

Women rescued from suspected human trafficking activities make beaded trinkets and jewelries as part of their therapy session at Bahay Silungan sa Daungan within the Zamboanga City Sea Port premises in this August 2015 file photo. The facility is jointly run by the Philippine Ports Authority and the Visayan Forum. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Days after the Philippines earned its first-ever Tier 1 ranking from the U.S. State Department for full compliance with international standards in combating human trafficking, Senator Win Gatchalian is calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to build on the past administration’s successes by targeting remaining weaknesses in the country’s anti-human trafficking efforts.

“I applaud President Noynoy Aquino for his administration’s success in fighting human trafficking. However, there is still more work left to do in ensuring the continuing safety and well-being of our children, women and laborers—both here and abroad. Therefore, I urge President Duterte to include human trafficking as one of the focal points of his anti-crime campaign,” said Gatchalian, the freshman senator from Valenzuela City.

On June 30, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, identifying the Philippines as the only country in Southeast Asia whose government fully complies with the minimum standards set by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The report, while applauding the government’s efforts over the past few years in human trafficking prosecution, protection and prevention, also made recommendations to help the Philippines further improve its anti-human trafficking drive.

One such recommendation is to expand efforts in investigating, prosecuting and convicting human traffickers and government officials involved in the illegal trade–a policy which, according to Gatchalian, fits perfectly in Duterte’s anti-crime and anti-corruption agenda.

“President Duterte should direct the law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies under his control to go after human traffickers and the corrupt government officials who aid and abet this despicable trade without mercy. Soon, human traffickers will fear the change coming under Duterte as much as the drug lords do now,” said he.

Additionally, Gatchalian called on Duterte to fully implement the provisions of Republic Act No. 10801, also known as the “The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Act,” which was signed into law by President Aquino on May 10, this year.

As one of the authors of the OWWA Act in the House of Representatives, the Senator explained that the law-established key guidelines and mechanisms to enhance OWWA’s ability to safeguard the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), including provisions streamlining the disbursement of funds to help OFWs and their families in emergency situations across the world.

“With its new charter, the OWWA is poised to become a key player in protecting OFW rights worldwide. Its implementation should be one of this administration’s priorities on its OFW agenda,” said Gatchalian, the Representative of the First District of Valenzuela City to the 16th Congress.