MANILA, Philippines — The advent of technology presents both challenge and opportunity to authorities and governments in the continuing the fight against human trafficking, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
Guevarra, who delivered keynote address in the 6th Manila International Dialogue on Human Trafficking, noted that conversation has shifted to the virtual sphere, “creating a challenge and opportunity to all duty bearers and stakeholder sin the anti-trafficking response.”
“Fortunately for us, the shift towards a virtual practice of discourse is also an opportunity to have a glimpse of what the future of counter-trafficking means for our country and for the world in general. As 2020 comes to a close, we are gaining a better understanding of what a global response to trafficking will look like in this decade and beyond,” Guevarra said.
He also noted that as technology spawned new ways to commit trafficking, it too has opened ways on how to respond to the crime. “More and more tech companies are joining the fight, developing the tools and technology solutions to combat human trafficking,” the DOJ chief said.
He also said that criminal justice system has slowly adapted to technological advancements, noting electronic trials and even the issuances conducting e-inquest.
Through technological advancements, courts also continued to function even amid lockdown. In May 2020, Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 58 Judge Irineo Pangilinan Jr. handed down its ruling convicting American pedophile David Timothy Deakin. A court in Cebu also issued a conviction, through videoconferencing, for large scale trafficking for prostitution.
In a separate release, the Department of Justice said the recently concluded Manila Dialogue highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on government response in human trafficking.
“The core of the Manila Dialogue is the product of discussions of three Technical Working Groups, namely: (1) TWG on Household Service Workers and Tourist Workers; (2) TWG on Online Child Exploitattion (OSEC) and (3) TWG on Seafarers and Fisherfolk,” the DOJ said.
It added that the TWGs identified how the pandemic has exacerbated trafficking in persons.
Kingdom of Netherlands Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings Herman Bolhaar said that they have yet to determine the full impact of the pandemic on the human trafficking.
But Bolhaar said that what is certain is that “during these times of crisis, person who were already vulnerable before are becoming even more vulnerable.”
“Support and care systems are becoming less accessible, identification of suspected victims might be limited. Perpetrators might find ways to operate outside authorities,” Bolhaar added.
He stressed that it is important to ensure that “digital technology is becoming an integrated part of our strategy as well, both at the policy level and during the operations.” — Kristine Joy Patag
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