Bicam panel approves expanded anti-human trafficking law

THE Bicameral conference committee of Congress on Wednesday approved the reconciled version of Senate Bill 2625 and House Bill 6339 – a measure expanding Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003.

“This time, there is no reason for human trafficking to triumph against our collective crusade against this modern day slavery,” Senator Loren Legarda said.

“We acknowledge that the problem of human trafficking continues to hound our society, and this is the reason why we need to strengthen the existing law. In the proposed amended version of the law, even acts that shall constitute attempted trafficking in persons will be punishable.  Accomplices and accessories to the crime will also be meted their due penalties,” said Legarda, chair of the sub-committee on Anti-Trafficking and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2625.

Under the bill, the capacities of government agencies will be strengthened and funding will be extended to ensure that the mandate entrusted to them will be carried out on a sustainable basis.

“The Expanded Anti-Trafficking Bill aims to fill voids in the existing law by expanding the enumeration of acts that promote trafficking, to include an act to destroy or tamper with evidence, to influence witnesses in an investigation, or to utilize one’s public office to impede an investigation or to obstruct the execution of lawful orders,” she said.

Legarda also said that trafficked victims shall be given protection, while prosecution efforts will be heightened by shielding, to a reasonable extent, law enforcement officers and social workers from harassment suits for lawful acts done in good faith during authorized rescue operations, investigation or prosecution of a case.

Furthermore, a permanent secretariat within the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) will be established to ensure continuity of programs and to take the battle against trafficking to a higher plane of strategic action and public awareness. This secretariat will collect comprehensive criminal justice data on trafficking in persons and will train prosecutors and law enforcers.

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