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Despite anti-human trafficking efforts, PHL retains Tier 2 ranking in US report

The United States said despite the Philippines' efforts to fight human trafficking, the country still does not quite meet the standard, and thus retains its Tier 2 ranking in the US' 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. "Despite making significant efforts to combat trafficking, the Government of the Philippines does not yet fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, the TIP Report noted," said a statement by the United States Embassy in the Philippines on Thursday. The Philippines was also given a Tier 2 ranking in the TIP report last year. "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards" belong to Tier 2, according to the US. The 2013 report, released on Wednesday, monitors the compliance of countries in relation to standards in fighting human trafficking. According to the report, syndicates trafficking in persons have become tech-savvy, using email and social media to victimize overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The 2013 TIP also said that even if the Philippines has been "making significant efforts" to fight human trafficking, the country did not make "significant progress in addressing the underlying weaknesses in its judicial systems" in relation to holding traffickers accountable. The report also gave nine recommendations for the Philippine government to consider:   1) Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict an increased number of both labor and sex trafficking offenders implicated in the trafficking of Filipinos within the country and abroad; 2) address the significant backlog of trafficking cases by developing mechanisms to track and monitor the status of cases filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and those under trial in the courts; 3) conduct immediate and rigorous investigations of complaints of trafficking complicity by government officials, and ensure accountability for leaders that fail to address trafficking-related corruption within their areas of jurisdiction; 4) ensure the government’s armed forces or paramilitary groups supported by the government do not recruit or use children; continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for police recruits, front-line officers, and police investigators; 5) increase the number of government officials whose duties are dedicated solely to anti-trafficking activities; continue and improve collaboration between victim service organizations and law enforcement authorities with regard to law enforcement operations; 6) make efforts to expand the use of victim processing centers to additional localities to improve identification of adult victims and allow for victims to be processed and assisted in a safe environment after a rescue operation; 7) examine “off-loading” policies to ensure this practice does not interfere with individuals’ freedom of movement; increase victim shelter resources and expand the government shelter system to assist a greater number of trafficking victims, including male victims of sex and labor trafficking; 8) increase funding for the DOJ’s witness protection program and facilitate the entry of trafficking victims into the program; increase efforts to identify trafficking victims in destination countries and to pursue criminal investigation and prosecution of their traffickers; and 9) develop and implement programs aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts, including child sex tourism. The Embassy statement noted that the US "looks forward to the day when all people may be freed from the shackles of modern day slavery." - Gian C. Geronimo, VVP, GMA News