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Philippines – Trafficking in Persons


Independent Study of a Legal Intern to PREDA
Research by: Hyun Jae Lee


Based on the report generated by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (OMCTP), the Republic of Philippines was categorized in the 2nd Tier Watch List.[1] It is considered as a country of origin, transit, and destination for human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.[2] Out of the total population of 92,811,000[3], approximately 300,000 ~ 400,000 women in the Philippines are trafficked annually.[4] Specifically, the victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and trafficking in minors is one of the more significant issues.[5]

Although there is no one leading factor that causes trafficking or sexual exploitation of children, poverty[6] ”linked with lack of respect for the child’s right”, high unemployment rate[7], corruption, and sex tourism are some of the main factors contributing to the trafficking activity.[8] Case example, A.E. and A.P. was recruited from province to Manila to work as domestic workers but was later coerced into prostitution due to poverty.[9] Also, other factors such as coercion, opportunity, greed, and family breakdown significantly affect the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. [10] Case example, M.C. was raised in a broken family. Her step-father raped her when she was only 11, and her biological mother failed to defend her. M.C. left home and was caught in the hands of a trafficker. M.C. was trafficked to Germany and was sexually abused. After the incident, M.C. resorted to prostitution.[11]


The Republic of Philippines ratified 7 core international treaties on Human Rights: ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ¬ ratified on February 28, 1986]; ICESCR [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ¬ ratified on May 17, 1974]; ICERD [International Convention on the Abolition of All Forms of Racial Discrimination- ratified on August 15, 1967]; CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Against Women- ratified on July 19, 1981]; CRC and the Optional Protocol including the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography since August 9, 2000 [Conventions on the Rights of a Child ¬ ratified on July 26, 1990]; CAT [Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ¬ ratified on June 18, 1986]; CMW [International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families- ratified on July 1995].[12] All of the ratified treaties protect the persons from one or more of the following: discrimination, exploitation, trafficking, or abuse.

The Philippine government has made sufficient efforts to comply with its international treaty obligations by enacting laws to prohibit trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.[13] For instance, the Philippines Constitution expressly prohibits forced labor[14] and ensures the protection of children from neglect, abuse, cruelty, and exploitation.[15] Particularly, in 1992, the Philippines enacted the Republic Act No. 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination ACT) for the purpose of protecting children against “abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, and employment in illicit activities”; and in 2003, the Republic of Philippines amended the R.A. 7610 imposing heavier penalties for the offense and providing working children with access to educational, psychological, and legal services.[16] Also, in 2003, the Philippines passed the Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 to criminalize human trafficking.[17] Furthermore, the Philippine Labor Code aims to protect the rights and safety of children. The Labor Code of Philippines (Presidential Decree 442) has set the minimum age of employment to 15 years-old, and pursuant to the Act, anyone under the age of 18 is forbidden to carry out hazardous work.[18]


Despite the efforts made through the legislation, the Philippine government is struggling to implement the laws to combat trafficking and exploitation. In particular, victims face undue delays in prosecuting the offenders. Corruption, weak judicial system, court congestion, and shortage of prosecutors are some of the main challenges. [19]

Pursuant to Philippine Speedy Trial Act, the prosecutor has an obligation to complete the case in 11 months from the date of filing the complaint up to the beginning of trial.[20]

Nevertheless, based on PREDA Foundations Childhood for Children Home for Girls records, majority of the legal cases in relations to RA 7610 had a pending period of at least 1 year from filing of the case awaiting the preliminary investigation.

[Case examples from PREDA Foundations legal records 2009][Accessed by Hyun Jae Lee with permission of PREDA from 6/16/2009-7/16/2009]

Case Filed
Awaiting Preliminary Investigation as of July 09

Nov. 23, 2007
1 year & 8 months
Aug. 31, 2006
2 years & 11 months
Nov. 5, 2007
1 year & 8 months
1 year & 5 months
D. A. M.
Mar. 14, 2007
2 years & 4 months
Aug. 3, 2007
1 year & 11 months
Aug. 16, 2007
1 year & 11 months
Feb. 25, 2009
5 months
Aug. 12, 2008
11 months
Jul. 24, 2007
2 years
Mar. 27, 2007
2 years & 4 months
1 year and 6 months
Feb. 10, 2009
5 months
Nov. 13, 2007
1 year & 8 months


Trafficking issue is not a simple problem that can be resolved quickly. The issue must be dealt in a comprehensive manner. One of the recommendations suggested by the Human Rights Commission is to empower the National Prosecution System (NPS) by separating NPS away from the supervision of the Department of Justice. This is to ensure adequate funding exclusively to the prosecutors and to discourage the practice of police officers from prosecuting a case.[21] Based on the information gathered from PREDA, some NGO’s are pushing the government to increase the salaries of the prosecutor. However, the proposal is at odds with the Salary Standardization Law, “under which it is necessary to increase the salaries of government employees across the board or be subjected to complaints of discrimination in favor of one category of public servants as against the others.”[22] Nevertheless, some local governments are in the practice of paying additional fees to the prosecutors.[23] Another alternative is to encourage NGO’s in employing private prosecutors. [24] This might be costly, but the advantages of reducing corruption and accelerating the case may offset the disadvantage.


The proposal is to encourage the local governments to implement an awareness program about trafficking and sexual exploitation of children as part of the school curriculum and text books. The main purpose of the awareness program is prevention. The program can help children be acquainted with the issues around the world, teach them to detect risk factors, and to use methods of self-defense. Although the primary enrollment rate for girls is only 48.58%, the duration for compulsory education is 7 years and the weighted average of the primary school completion rate is 100%.[25] This indicates that with an effective awareness program, the public schools can cover half of the girls in the Philippines in bringing awareness for the purpose of preventing trafficking and exploitation. Naturally, this will take time to implement it all across the country, but at the outset, the project can target the highest risk areas such as Metro Manila, Angeles City, Puerto Galera in Mindoro Province, Davao and Cebu.

[1] Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Philippines: New conviction boosts fight against human trafficking, 14, 2 December 2008, available at: [accessed 21 July 2009] (“Tier 2 refers to countries that Œdo not comply’ with the Act Œbut are making sufficient efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards’”)
[2] Id. at 8.
[4] Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) at 15, 2 December 2008, available at: [accessed 21 July 2009]
[5] U.N. Office on Drug and Crime [UNODC], Global Report on Trafficking in Persons at 55, (February 2009), available at
[6] (According to World Development Indicator database, Philippines’ Gross National Income per capita is $920.19 per person ranking 106 out of 172 countries).
[7] (follow “Economy” hyperlink) (CIA estimate 7.4% of unemployment rate in 2008).
[9] PREDA Foundations CSEC record [accessed by Hyun Jae Lee with permission from PREDA]
[11] Interview with Marlyn Capio, PREDA staff, CSEC Department, Olongapo, Philippines (June 2009).
[13] Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Philippines: A report prepared for the Committee on the Rights of Child: 38th Session – Geneva, January 2005,
[14] Philippine Const. art. III, § 18, cl. 2 (Citing “[n]o involuntary servitude in any form shall exist except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”).
[15] Philippine Const. of 1987, art. XV, § 15, cl. 3(2).
[17] Global Report at 181.
[20] Danilo Reyes, Programme Assistant, Prosecution in the Philippines, 45, (March 2008), (Quoting ”[f]rom filing of complaint to arraignment 30 days are permitted, from the entry of a plea to the date of trial, another 30 days, the trial itself another 180 days, and a decision handed down by the court within 90 days after that. All in all, a case should be completed within 11 months”).

[21] Id. at 24 (Quoting “[i]n 2001, each prosecutor obtained an average budget for maintenance, operating, and other expenses of only 14,641 Pesos, or 1,220 Pesos per month”).
[22] Id. at 25.
[23] Id.
[24] Id. at 3 (Quoting “[u]nder the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, rule 110, section 5, private lawyer can prosecute a case once he or she receives permission from the Regional State Prosecutor”).


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