The government took another major step in the fight against human trafficking as the newly published Manual for Asset Forfeiture Proceedings in Human Trafficking was formally turned-over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The American Bar Association (ABA) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) Headquarters last May 08, 2013.
The manual was a collaborative effort between the DOJ, IACAT, Office of the Solicitor General, UP College of Law Development Foundation, Anti-Money Laundering Council, USAID, and the ABA Rule of Law Initiative intended to make the acts of human trafficking costly for the perpetrators through civil forfeiture of their assets without the need for criminal convictions. Under Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act, as amended, the government may undertake a bank inquiry, freeze assets, or confiscate the proceeds generated from any of the “predicate crimes” listed in the same law.
“This manual aims to serve as a useful guide for legal practitioners and human rights advocates to more effectively curb human trafficking, protect potential victims, and ensure speedy but fair prosecution of suspects,” said Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, chairperson of IACAT.“It presents the relevant procedures in the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Court of Appeals (CA), and Regional Trial Courts” De Lima added.
Undersecretary-in-charge of IACAT, Jose Vicente Salazar, in his speech during the turnover ceremony mentioned that “The time is perfectly right. We can no longer delay... to put in place and set in motion the mechanism for forfeiture of assets.” He exclaimed that “Simply, we have a manual that aims to put the enemy, so to speak, out of business.”
USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele expressed her gratitude to those who were present during the ceremony, in particular, those who were instrumental in coming up with the handbook. She congratulated IACAT for the successful turn-over and mentioned that the project is a more progressive approach in combating human trafficking.
With the launch of the manual, the victims of human trafficking together with the government are given a swifter alternative in attaining justice by helping locate, seize and forfeit the financial or material gains of trafficking, and eliminate the evils of modern-slavery.30