Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208): A Primer

(A recent news article warns foreigners from marrying Filipino women in exchange for their kidneys or other organs. Two laws were cited: the law against mail-order brides and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. Since we already have a previous discussion on the prohibition against mail-order brides, let’s have a brief discussion on Republic Act No. 9208, also known as the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003“.)

What is the meaning of “trafficking in persons”? It refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs.

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall also be considered as “trafficking in persons” even if it does not involve any of the means set forth in the preceding paragraph.

What is “forced labor and slavery”? It is the extraction of work or services from any person by means of enticement, violence, intimidation or threat, use of force or coercion, including deprivation of freedom, abuse of authority or moral ascendancy, debt-bondage or deception.

What is “debt bondage”? It refers to the pledging by the debtor of his/her personal services or labor or those of a person under his/her control as security or payment for a debt, when the length and nature of services is not clearly defined or when the value of the services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt.

How does the law define sex exploitation, prostitution, pornography, and sex tourism?

Sexual exploitation” refers to participation by a person in prostitution or the production of pornographic materials as a result of being subjected to a threat, deception, coercion, abduction, force, abuse of authority, debt bondage, fraud or through abuse of a victim’s vulnerability.

Prostitution” refers to any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for money, profit or any other consideration.

Pornography” refers to any representation, through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent shows, information technology, or by whatever means, of a person engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual purposes.

Sex tourism” refers to a program organized by travel and tourism-related establishments and individuals which consists of tourism packages or activities, utilizing and offering escort and sexual services as enticement for tourists. This includes sexual services and practices offered during rest and recreation periods for members of the military.

What are the prohibited acts of trafficking in persons and what is the penalty? It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to commit any of the following acts:

  1. To recruit, transport, transfer; harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
  2. To introduce or match for money, profit, or material, economic or other consideration, any person or, as provided for under Republic Act No. 6955, any Filipino woman to a foreign national, for marriage for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading him/her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
  3. To offer or contract marriage, real or simulated, for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling, or trading them to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor or slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
  4. To undertake or organize tours and travel plans consisting of tourism packages or activities for the purpose of utilizing and offering persons for prostitution, pornography or sexual exploitation.
  5. To maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography.
  6. To adopt or facilitate the adoption of persons for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage. (Conviction by final judgment of the adopter for any offense under this law shall result in the immediate rescission of the decree of adoption).
  7. To recruit, hire, adopt, transport or abduct a person, by means of threat or use of force, fraud, deceit, violence, coercion, or intimidation for the purpose of removal or sale of organs of said person.
  8. To recruit, transport or adopt a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad.

The penalty is imprisonment for a period of 20 years and a fine of not less than P1 Million but not more than P2 Million.

What are the punishable acts that promote trafficking in persons and what is the penalty? The following acts which promote or facilitate trafficking in persons, shall be unlawful:

  1. To knowingly lease or sublease, use or allow to be used any house, building or establishment for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.
  2. To produce, print and issue or distribute unissued, tampered or fake counseling certificates, registration stickers and certificates of any government agency which issues these certificates and stickers as proof of compliance with government regulatory and pre-departure requirements for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.
  3. To advertise, publish, print, broadcast or distribute, or cause the advertisement, publication, printing, broadcasting or distribution by any means, including the use of information technology and the internet, of any brochure, flyer, or any propaganda material that promotes trafficking in persons.
  4. To assist in the conduct of misrepresentation or fraud for purposes of facilitating the acquisition of clearances and necessary exit documents from government agencies that are mandated to provide pre-departure registration and services for departing persons for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.
  5. To facilitate, assist or help in the exit and entry of persons from/to the country at international and local airports, territorial boundaries and seaports who are in possession of unissued, tampered or fraudulent travel documents for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.
  6. To confiscate, conceal, or destroy the passport, travel documents, or personal documents or belongings of trafficked persons in furtherance of trafficking or to prevent them from leaving the country or seeking redress from the government or appropriate agencies.
  7. To knowingly benefit from, financial or otherwise, or make use of, the labor or services of a person held to a condition of involuntary servitude, forced labor, or slavery.

The penalty is imprisonment for 15 years and a fine of not less than P500,000, but not more than P1 Million.

What acts are considered as “qualified trafficking in persons” and what is the penalty? The following are considered as qualified trafficking:

  1. When the trafficked person is a child.
  2. When the adoption is effected through Republic Act No. 8043, otherwise known as the “Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995” and said adoption is for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
  3. When the crime is committed by a syndicate, or in large scale. Trafficking is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. It is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons, individually or as a group.
  4. When the offender is an ascendant, parent, sibling, guardian or a person who exercises authority over the trafficked person or when the offense is committed by a public officer or employee.
  5. When the trafficked person is recruited to engage in prostitution with any member of the military or law enforcement agencies.
  6. When the offender is a member of the military or law enforcement agencies.
  7. When by reason or on occasion of the act of trafficking in persons, the offended party dies, becomes insane, suffers mutilation or is afflicted with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

In these cases, the penalty is life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 Million, but not more than P5 Million.

What are the penalties for “use of trafficked persons”? Any person who buys or engages the services of trafficked persons for prostitution shall be penalized as follows:

  • First offense: 6 months of community service as may be determined by the court and a fine of P50,000.
  • Second and subsequent offenses:  Imprisonment of 1 year and a fine of P100,000.

What is the penalty for violations in case of confidential proceedings? In cases when prosecution or trial is conducted behind closed-doors, it shall be unlawful for any editor, publisher, and reporter or columnist in case of printed materials, announcer or producer in case of television and radio, producer and director of a film in case of the movie industry, or any person utilizing tri-media facilities or information technology to cause publicity of any case of trafficking in persons. The penalty is imprisonment of 6 years and a fine of not less than P500,000, but not more than P1 Million.

Who can prosecute the case? Any person who has personal knowledge of the commission of any offense under this law, the trafficked person, the parents, spouse, siblings, children or legal guardian may file a complaint for trafficking.

Where should the case be filed (venue)? A criminal action arising from violation of this law shall be filed where the offense was committed, or where any of its elements occurred, or where the trafficked person actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense: Provided, That the court where the criminal action is first filed shall acquire jurisdiction to the exclusion of other courts.

How about foreigners? If the offender is a foreigner, he shall be immediately deported after serving his sentence and be barred permanently from entering the country.

On the other hand, the DOJ, in consultation with DFA, shall endeavor to include offenses of trafficking in persons among extraditable offenses.

Trafficked persons in the Philippines who are foreign nationals shall, subject to the guidelines issued by the Council, shall also be entitled to appropriate protection, assistance and services available to trafficked persons under this law. That they shall be permitted continued presence in the Philippines for a length of time prescribed by the Council as necessary to effect the prosecution of offenders.

What is the prescriptive period for the offenses? Trafficking cases under this law shall prescribe in 10 years. Trafficking cases committed by a syndicate or in a large scale shall prescribe in 20 years. The prescriptive period shall commence to run from the day on which the trafficked person is delivered or released from the conditions of bondage and shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to the accused.

What are the mandatory services to trafficked persons? The concerned government agencies shall make available the following services to trafficked persons:

  1. Emergency shelter or appropriate housing.
  2. Counseling.
  3. Free legal services which shall include information about the victims’ rights and the procedure for filing complaints, claiming compensation and such other legal remedies available to them, in a language understood by the trafficked person.
  4. Medical or psychological services.
  5. Livelihood and skills training.
  6. Educational assistance to a trafficked child.

Repatriation of Trafficked Persons. The DFA, in coordination with DOLE and other appropriate agencies, shall have the primary responsibility for the repatriation of trafficked persons, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented. If, however, the repatriation of the trafficked persons shall expose the victims to greater risks, the DFA shall make representation with the host government for the extension of appropriate residency permits and protection, as may be legally permissible in the host country.

Legal Protection to Trafficked Persons. Trafficked persons shall be recognized as victims of the act or acts of trafficking and as such shall not be penalized for crimes directly related to the acts of trafficking enumerated in this law or in obedience to the order made by the trafficker in relation thereto. In this regard, the consent of a trafficked person to the intended exploitation set forth in this law shall be irrelevant.

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  1. Pingback: The Anti-Trafficking Law : Ana Santos

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