Sisters and Friends,
While we continue to persevere to stop the ongoing wars in Iraq and Mindanao, we continue to work for the passage of the anti-trafficking bill in the Philippine Senate. Yesterday, March 19, 2003, the last day of Congress before its regular recess, we witnessed the passage of the anti- trafficking bill on third reading!
This is a significant victory for us women and Filipinos, especially since we have been struggling for this law to be passed for more than 6 years now. CATW has been part of its drafting since the beginning. Three Congress terms passed and the Senate always proved to be the bottleneck, while the Lower House consistently approved the proposed bill.
Lobbying and negotiations were difficult as the male-dominated Senate tried to remove many basic elements in the bill. In the end, a progressive bill was voted on unanimously by the Senators. It contained this definition of trafficking: "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, provision, harboring, receipt or deployment of a person for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, forced labor, slavery, sexual exploitation, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, removal or sale of organs or involvement in armed activities or other similar acts."
Further, it contains a provision on legal protection of trafficked persons, which reads: "Trafficked persons shall be recognized as victims of act or acts of trafficking and shall not be criminalized. Trafficked victims are entitled to basic rights such as the right to safety, the right to privacy, the right to information, the right to legal representation, the right to be heard in court, the right to compensation for damages, the right to medical assistance, the right to social assistance, the right to return. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in this Act shall be irrelevant."
Also, the bill considered the use of trafficked persons as a crime, and when the users are members of the armed forces or law enforcement institutions, their crime committed is considered qualified trafficking.
CATW-AP is already invited for a pre-bicameral meeting at the Senate on April 7. After the bicameral committee approves the final version, the bill will be signed into law. We hope that this will happen within the next month.
Thank you for all your support!