The Philippines’ Secretary of Justice, Leila M. De Lima, in her keynote speech at the 4th ASEAN Workshop on Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Persons held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia emphasized the need for solid cooperation among governments in the region to effectively address the menace of human trafficking.
“No country can address the phenomenon of trafficking on its own… When one jurisdiction supports and mirrors another jurisdiction’s efforts, we expand each other’s reach to reduce if not obliterate, the egregious violations of these predators,” De Lima said.
The Government of the Philippines took part in the three-day workshop in Malaysia which was also attended by high-level officials from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
De Lima, who is also the Chairperson of the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) delivered one of the keynote addresses before representatives from the United Nations (UN), notably UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Joy Ezeilo, and ASEAN Member States present during the program. The event was hosted by Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
De Lima highlighted the gains held by the country in its unrelenting fight against trafficking in persons. Primarily, she pointed out the enactment of Republic Act 10364, or the Expanded Trafficking in Persons Law, which sought to improve not only the victim’s access to justice but also reinforce the protection given to them by law.
The workshop underscored the promotion of safe and successful participation of human trafficking victims in the criminal justice process. In her remarks, De Lima emphasized the importance of integrating the victim-centered approach proposed by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) with law enforcement practice. This may be done, according to De Lima, by empowering the victim of human trafficking by making them understand their rights and provide them the skills required to assimilate back to mainstream society.
“An empowered former victim would become an effective asset to the criminal justice system, not only as a witness in the trial of perpetrators but also as a source of enlightenment and inspiration to the rest of society, especially the vulnerable sectors from which the victims would likely come,” De Lima said.
De Lima also called out to other ASEAN Member States build to stronger ties to ensure successful prosecution of offenders, rescue and rehabilitation of victims, and prevention of human trafficking activities.
“As we mark the tenth year after the ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons, and as we draw ever closer to having a finalized text of a legally binding regional instrument against trafficking, let us also build an effective law enforcement model build on this twofold recognition: first, that it is through the rule of law that our government can protect our peoples from the perpetrators of trafficking in persons; and second, that it is with the aid of former victims, empower to rejoin and help protect their communities, that we can speedily eradicate ta crime that seems close to outstripping the narcotics trade in profit and power,” De Lima said.