The institutional framework

The Philippine “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act” establishes an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT). IACAT is co-chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Justice and the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. In addition, IACAT is composed of representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Immigration, the Philippine Commission on Women, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Philippine Center on Transnational Crimes, the Council for the Welfare of Children, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and three representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), where one NGO represents women, one NGO represents Filipinos, and one NGO represents children. The NGO representatives are appointed for a term of three years.

Through the creation of IACAT, the Philippines has adopted a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach to combating trafficking in persons. IACAT is tasked with performing numerous functions, including: 1) formulating a comprehensive and integrated programme to prevent and suppress trafficking; 2) promulgating rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act”; 3) monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the Act; 4) co-ordinating the work of the various member agencies; and 5) co-ordinating awareness-raising and outreach activities. In regards to Point 1, the current “National Strategic Action Plan Against

Trafficking in Persons” - the second of its kind - covers the period 2012-16. IACAT is also required to develop a mechanism to ensure the timely, co-ordinated, and effective response to cases of trafficking in persons, to assist in the filing of cases, and to formulate a programme for victim reintegration together with concerned agencies.

According to IACAT, one of its best practices is the creation of a number of taskforces for combatting trafficking in persons. There are 23 taskforces across the Philippines that are composed of prosecutors who do case build-up. In addition, there are 15 regional anti-trafficking taskforces, 6 port-based inter-agency anti-trafficking taskforces, and 2 special national taskforces composed of prosecutors that operate nationally to be able to strike anywhere.

IACAT also has four support units: the temporary victims’ shelter unit; the warrant taskforce; the cyber-trafficking unit; and the Operations Center. The Operations Center addresses the problem of locating witnesses or victims who do not want to come forward or testify, by, for example, establishing temporary shelter for witnesses and trafficking victims (US Department of State, 2013). The Operations Centre operates nationally and includes a quick reaction team that is composed of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, social welfare investigators and representatives from civil society organisations that can respond to calls from the IACAT hotline and conduct surveillance in suspected trafficking hotspots (United Nations, 2013; Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, 2012).

Although civil society stakeholders as well as government representatives report that IACAT and its taskforces are functioning well, there has been criticism regarding what the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons dubbed “a plethora of structures”, making it “difficult to assess how they function in practice and to what extent each of them is useful and effective” (United Nations, 2013, p. 11). Moving forward, it would be useful if regular monitoring or a comprehensive evaluation of the functioning of the institutional set-up dealing with trafficking in persons in the Philippines were to be conducted.

 
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