Gains, new online threat cited
As the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) cited in-roads in the fight against human trafficking with the decrease in the availability of children for commercial sex in Metro Cebu, it also acknowledged the emergence of other forms of human trafficking using the internet.
According to IACAT in a statement, this new form of human trafficking is called online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).
Tier 1 ranking
The IACAT warned of this new emerging threat to children as the country recently improved its ranking from Tier 2 to Tier 1 in terms of efforts against human trafficking based on the 15th Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report of the US Department of State’s Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons last June 30.
It also called on everybody to join the fight against OSEC as the world celebrates World Day Against Trafficking today.
Fight vs. OSEC
“Not only is it essential that we stand up and join the fight against OSEC, but we must also remember the importance of maintaining our progress thus far. Therefore, as we celebrate all the achievements and hard work from this past year in the fight against human trafficking, it is crucial that we look forward to the future as we prepare for the next era of this battle,” said the IACAT.
The Philippines is now the first country in Southeast Asia to be classified under Tier 1 in the TIP report, which is being conducted annually.
Being in Tier 1 doesn’t necessarily mean that human trafficking has been eliminated, but it shows that the country fully complies with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as stated under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
“The challenge now is how to sustain Tier 1. It would need more of our resources, time and coordination. We’re not only celebrating today. But we must also sustain the challenge in our campaign against human trafficking,” said Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane, who also heads the IACAT-7.
IACAT-7 also said that the collaboration between agencies and groups including the IACAT, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation had led to 79 percent decrease in 2010 of the availability of children for commercial sex in Metro Cebu since their anti-trafficking campaign in 2006.
As for OSEC, police also admitted the difficulty in catching perpetrators.
Chief Insp. Michael Virtudazo, chief of the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Office 7, said they don’t have high-tech equipment to accurately track people using the internet for human trafficking.
“We just rely on the online tools that are readily available on the internet. But these tools are not accurate. We don’t have exact tools to locate those perpetrators online,” he said during yesterday’s press conference.
Virtudazo said they had tried coordinating with several telecommunications companies to ask for help in tracing IP addresses as well as telephone and cellphone number of possible suspects, but they still had not received any response from these firms.
Lawyer John Tanagho, acting field office director of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in Cebu, said that under Section 9 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, companies are required to provide information to law authorities.
“This include internet providers and telecommunications companies. And they have completely failed to do that. It’s really up to the DOJ (Department of Justice) now to start holding them accountable. Otherwise, they’ll continue not to follow the law,” he said.
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