MANILA – Trafficking in persons has taken a new form with the series of lockdowns brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, increasing the exploitation of women and children via online activities, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said Friday.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola assured that Manila would sustain its efforts to prevent trafficking and protect its victims despite the pandemic, as the international community observes the 2020 World Day against Human Trafficking,
“(The Philippines) has enacted significant anti-trafficking efforts and response to Covid-19, such as utilizing the social media to strengthen the implementation of the 4Ps approach, the prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership,” Arriola said during a virtual high-level event organized by the United Nations.
She said last May alone, the first virtual promulgation of a court decision was handed down against a foreign pedophile who was sentenced to life imprisonment for three counts of large-scale qualified human trafficking.
Another recent conviction for large-scale trafficking for prostitution was also promulgated via video conferencing in Cebu City.
At the same time, Arriola highlighted the crucial role of cooperation between a host and the country of origin in combatting all forms of trafficking.
Last April, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced eight people to seven years of imprisonment for sex trafficking three Filipino women migrant workers, a textbook example of how international cooperation works, she said.
“It is our fervent hope that when we look back at 2020 the narrative on our migrants will not only be about their unparalleled contribution to society but also including the global community’s triumphant effort in combatting Covid-19 and trafficking in persons,” Arriola said.
Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Enrique Manalo also agreed that Covid-19 has changed the methods of traffickers.
Despite the evolving landscape, Manalo assured that law enforcement agencies are active in rescuing children trafficked for sex online.
Since the outbreak struck, he said, the government has carried out 15 police operations. (PNA)