As a result of its resilient efforts against transnational crimes, Interior and Local Government Secretary Atty. Benhur C. Abalos Jr. lauded the efforts of law enforcement and other government agencies against Trafficking In Persons (TIP) that led to the country retaining its Tier 1 status in the United States Trafficking in Persons Report of 2022 for the seventh straight year, even as the Philippine government reported its numerous gains in the campaign against TIP during the recently concluded ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC).

Abalos further expressed confidence that the Philippines, under the leadership of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., will be able to retain its Tier 1 status for the 8th consecutive year given the firm resolve and commitment of all member agencies of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to squarely address the issue of TIP which he labeled as a "bane to human development and a recurring threat to growth, development, and stability of nations" along with other transnational crimes.

“We assure the ASEAN community that the Philippine government under the leadership of President Marcos, Jr. will actively work with its regional counterparts in undertaking regional and local measures to prevent and address transnational crimes,” Abalos said.

Based on the recently issued 2022 US TIP report, the Philippine government fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity, hence it remains on Tier 1 status along with Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Singapore, UK, USA, and others.

Abalos congratulated the IACAT member agencies for their whole-of-nation approach to combatting human trafficking including the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Philippine National Police, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bureau of Immigration, Philippine National Police, Philippine Commission on Women, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Philippine Center for Transnational Crimes, Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific, Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, and International Justice Mission.

He expressed the readiness of the DILG to strengthen the capacities of local government units as well as linking them to other agencies and civil society organizations that have initiatives against TIP to enable them to play their crucial role in protecting their vulnerable constituents from being victimized by unscrupulous individuals and organized crime groups preying on the poor.

“Ipagpapatuloy at paigtingin pa natin ang kampanya natin kontra sa trafficking in persons hindi lamang upang mapanatili natin ang ating Tier 1 status, kundi upang mailayo at maiiwas din natin ang ating mga mamamayan na maging biktima, at upang mapanagot ang mga gumagawa ng karumaldumal na krimen na ito,” Abalos said.


In the recently concluded 22nd ASEAN SOMTC, DILG Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Francisco R. Cruz, who serves as the head of the Philippine delegation, reported that the combined efforts of various government agencies resulted in the rescue of 867 TIP victims and the arrest of 117 suspects in the course of 134 operations nationwide from 2021 to 2022.

“Our milestones are indications that we are leaning in the right direction towards greater regional cooperation in combatting transnational crime. We hope that our future regional initiatives will take into account the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cruz in his country report during plenary sessions of the said ASEAN event.

According to Cruz, the advent of COVID-19 increased the prevalence of cybercrime cases via Facebook, Tiktok, and other social media platforms as the number of complaints upped by 22.68% or 8,195 from July 2021 to May 2022 from only 6,680 for the same period last year.

Among the most prevalent cybercrime cases include online scams, computer-related identity theft, online libel, and illegal access.

To address cybercrimes, the PNP initiated Project KatropaTIPS and Enhanced Anti-Cybercrime Campaign, Education, Safety and Security (E-ACCESS).

So far, 29 persons have been convicted for TIP since 2021 for violations of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, Anti-Child Pornography Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act in relation to Anti-Child Pornography Act, and Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

PHL milestones

Cruz said that the Philippines has achieved significant milestones in six out of eight areas of regional cooperation in transnational crime including TIP, countering violent extremism, illicit drug trafficking, cybercrime, illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber, and illicit firearms smuggling.

In countering terrorism, over 700 local terrorist groups and supporters have been neutralized in 2021 with 200 more during the first semester of 2022. On the other hand, the National Action Plan on preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) has reached some 1,539 barangays nationwide through the various Community Support Programs.

On illicit drug trafficking, Philippine operatives confiscated 580 kilograms of shabu worth $70.66-million in September 2021, the country’s biggest sea interdiction operation in the history of drug law enforcement.

In illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber, the Philippine government has confiscated some $6.9-million worth of confiscated wildlife and timber while 270 criminal complaints have been acted upon in the last five years for violation of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Apart from the World Wildlife Day Celebration, a WildALERT mobile application was developed to aid in reporting wildlife crimes.

Meanwhile, a total of 3,651 individuals were arrested; 2,812 firearms were confiscated; and 518 smuggled items were seized from July 2020 to May 2021 including firearms, parts of firearms, and ammunition as part of the country’s efforts against illicit firearms smuggling.

Hosted by Cambodia, the 22nd ASEAN SOMTC meeting was attended by senior officials from ASEAN countries including Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Among the members of the Philippine delegation are DILG National Barangay Operations Director Dennis Villasenor; Philippine Center for Transnational Crime (PCTC) Directorate for Plans and Programs PLtCol Deodennis Marmol; PCTC Directorate for Research PLtCol Luisito Andaya Jr; and Department of Justice State Counsel Atty. Nancy Lozano.

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