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US human trafficking report maintains Tier 1 ranking for Philippines

The Philippines retained its Tier 1 ranking in the State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report after fully meeting the United State’s minimum standards against human trafficking.

From 2011 to 2015, Manila was in Tier 2 of the TIP report, meaning the government is making significant efforts to comply with America’s TIP protection act but did not fully meet America’s standards on the victims’ protection.

The country was upgraded to Tier 1 ranking, the highest of tier placements, in 2016 and has since maintained the status for three consecutive years.

“The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the TIP report read.

“The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers,” it added.

The report released on Thursday (Washington time) said the government has “effectively” coordinated identification, referral, and provision of services to more victims and has increased efforts to help Filipino migrant workers that are victims of trafficking abroad.

Among others, the Philippines has also exerted efforts to reduce the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts.

But despite meeting the standards, Washington underscored Manila’s need to improve the availability and quality of protection for male victims.

“(The Philippines should) increase the availability of specialized shelter and mental health services for victims of trafficking, including child and male victims of online sexual exploitation ; (and) increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict perpetrators of trafficking, particularly complicit officials and labor traffickers.”

Validation to fight human trafficking

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez who was present during the report’s launch ceremony with State Secretary Mike Pompeo said the report validates the country’s commitment against TIP.

“Being in Tier 1 for three consecutive years validates the effectiveness of the Philippines’ victim-centered and multi-agency approach to address human trafficking,” he said in a statement.

“It also speaks of the determination of the Philippine Government to uphold and protect human rights. The Philippine embassy in Washington, D. C. remains committed to engaging and cooperating with US stakeholders in advancing the international anti-TIP agenda,” he added.

The report, released annually by the State Department since 2001, is mandated by the US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

The four tier placements signifying level of compliance with TVPA standards are Tier 1 or full compliance, Tier 2 or no full compliance but making significant efforts to comply with standards, Tier 2 Watchlist or no full compliance and absolute number of victims increasing, and the Tier 3 or no full compliance and no significant efforts to comply.

China slams UN, defends Duterte

China has defended President Rodrigo Duterte against critics questioning his controversial anti-illegal drug campaign.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry showed in a statement its support for the President, stressing that the international community, particularly the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has to “respect the sovereignty of the Philippines and the will of its people, view the outcomes of the Philippines’ fight against drug and terrorism in a comprehensive, unbiased and objective way, and support its efforts to move forward its human rights cause in light of its national conditions.”

This came after UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s remarks that Duterte might need to undergo a psychiatric examination following the latter’s pronouncement to consider UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard as a “terrorist.”

For this, the China urged the organization to “fulfill its duties within the framework set out by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”

It further expressed admiration for the President, noting Duterte has delivered “positive efforts since assuming office to combat drug-related crimes as well as terrorism, develop the national economy, and improve people’s livelihood, which have effectively protected and promoted the Philippine people’s fundamental rights to security and development.”

“The achievements made by the Philippine government led by President Duterte on these fronts have won great approval and extensive support among the Philippine people,” it added.