Last 2012, Ms. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, an envoy from the United Nations visited the Philippines to observe the situation of human trafficking in the country. Ms. Ezeilo stated that “the Philippines is undoubtedly a source country for human trafficking, and the problem is not declining. ” One of the solutions she proposed to address the problem were special courts catering to human trafficking cases. (Reyes, 2012. ) Human trafficking thrives in poverty & lack of education, which are the main catalysts for individuals to be ushered into trafficking. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008.
These are some of the problems the government is facing, and the two are very interconnected because they are the cause and effects of each other. Poverty leads to lack of education, and lack of education leads to poverty. The government is doing what they can to help minimize the issue, but they admit that it would take some time. (Sisante, 2008. ) Education is a way to combat trafficking, due to the fact that education leads to decent employment, and a well-informed individual would be more aware of the dangers of being trafficked, thus preventing it to happen in his/her life.
However, ideal this may sound, it is not possible to solve poverty and lack of education in a snap. There has to be other solutions to consider that could be done now and would have a great impact. The establishment of special courts tackling specifically human trafficking-oriented cases is a practical solution that would greatly expedite the process of punishing human traffickers and by extension greatly reduce the number of cases of human trafficking in the Philippines, helping alleviate its social, economic, and political consequences.
Before special courts as a solution is to be discussed any further, it is important to define what a special court is. Specialized courts are defined by the International Journal for Court Administration as “tribunals of narrowly focused jurisdiction to which all cases that fall within that jurisdiction are routed. ” (Zimmer, 2009) The following paragraphs are going to discuss the counterarguments against special courts, and would be briefly refuted before the three main arguments in favor of special courts are presented. The opposition may claim special courts as an unnecessary expenditure and inaccessible.
They claim that it is unnecessary because the creation of new courts is onerous and constitutes unnecessary expenditures, particularly if cases are seasonal, and funds could go to waste if it remains idle. (Zimmer, 2009. ) The creation of a court would automatically imply expenditures. The court has to pay for the administrative costs, the physical court, and other expenses needed to assist the victims, like court psychiatrists. It would also require effort on the judiciary, and the Supreme Court, due to the fact that special courts have to be set-up with care in order for its potential in eliminating cases to be maximized. Zimmer, 2009) However, funding is not a strong argument, because the government has money. It is the proper allocation of the funds, or budgeting that is in question. The government has established special courts for environmental cases in 2008, 117 to be exact. (Salaveirra, 2008) If the government has placed effort enough to set up courts to save the environment, shouldn’t it be a priority to set up courts to fight for human trafficking victims, who have been robbed of their rights? Human rights should always be kept in the priority list of the government.
Recently, it has been reported that the government is funding the Department of Health with 500 million pesos for contraceptives for the year 2013. One of their aims was to ‘combat poverty’. (Fernandez, 2012. ) This shows that the government tries to prioritize the poor, however it just shows that they haven’t thought of more practical ways to combat poverty, without being morally questionable, and without robbing humans the right to life. Chief Justice Puno stated that preservation of human rights and the right to life should be considered more than the financial burden a special court entails. Rempillo, 2007. )
This is what the special court for human trafficking should be for, to fight for rights. A $1. 5 million budget or almost ? 65 million is allotted by the national government to support operations against human trafficking, prosecution of offenders, and for the protection of the public. (IACAT, 2012. ) The special courts would allow this budget to be maximized to its full potential in expediting human trafficking cases. Public access could also be limited. Some judges prefer not to be in a special court setting because it limits their trials to criminal cases. Bakker, 1997) Public access may also be limited due to the fact that you cannot establish it everywhere, and the judges are most likely to stay in their respective courts. If public access is considered a problem, then strategically locating these physical courts would be the solution.
To place special courts in accessible areas in which the cases are numerous could actually help the victims to easily access justice. Some judges may not want to be in a special court setting because it limits their trials to specific criminal cases. (Bakker, 1997. However, this could turn into an advantage because if they keep seeing the same class of cases over and over again, they could render out decisions faster and more efficiently, due to a better understanding of the cases that they deal with. (Zimmer, 2009. ) There are three solutions to human trafficking: prosecution, prevention, and protection. (EHTN, n. d. ) The establishment of special courts would aid in prosecution, due to the speedy justice it serves, prevention, since it is an effective deterrent for criminals involved, and protection, due to its aims in protecting the victims, and the witnesses during the timeframe of the case.
The following paragraphs would elaborate more on why special courts should be established. Firstly, special courts would aid in prosecution and are practical. This is supported by the prevalence of human trafficking, the poor enforcement of justice, specifically in human trafficking cases, the need to distinguish human trafficking as a family of cases that should be differentiated from labor contract violations, the legal precedents such as previous special courts set-up for heinous crimes, and the successful implementation of human trafficking courts in other nations.
Human trafficking is a serious issue in the Philippines. As pointed out by the UN envoy Ezeilo, the Philippines is a source country for human trafficking. (Reyes, 2012. ) This is due to the fact that when Filipinos go abroad for work opportunities, they get vulnerable to recruitment by fraudulent recruitment agencies. Internal trafficking is also a serious issue because forced labor, prostitution, child labor, and other forms of trafficking are victimizing people who are moving from rural areas to urban centers. [para, US Department of State, 2011 as cited by (“Human Trafficking in East Asia & Pacific.. , n. d. )] The rise of human trafficking cases in the Philippines, particularly in the Visayas region, is 97% in 2012, in comparison to the cases filed in 2010.
There were 436 human trafficking victims in Central Visayas alone. (“State prosecutors see increase.. ”, 2012) Another alarming detail is the prevalence of child labor. There has been an estimation of more than 2. 2 million working children aged 15-17 in the country. (US Department of State, 2011. as cited by (“Human Trafficking in East Asia & Pacific.. ”, n. d. It is also believed that 60,000-100,000 Filipino children are involved in prostitution rings. (Challenger, 2010. ) The previous information stated imply that there are thousands of potential cases to be filed, and special courts would help in fast-tracking the cases to avoid backlog, and to insure fair and speedy justice. The government has fallen short in the enforcement of justice in dealing with human trafficking cases.
There were 680 pending or ongoing cases, and an additional 129 cases pending at the Department of Justice during the year 2012. “Trafficking in Persons.. ”, 2012. ) This shows a huge amount of backlog and ongoing cases, which shows the prevalence of the cases, and the lack of efficiency on the part of the judiciary when it comes to dealing with human trafficking cases. In the Philippines, it takes three to four years to conclude human trafficking cases, which supports the previous statement about the inefficiency of the judiciary. Human trafficking is a family of cases. It is an organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited.
Forms of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, child labor, selling of organs, and recruitment of children in military work, are forms of human trafficking. (“Human Trafficking: Organized Crime.. ”, 2012) These crimes (except for the selling of organs) are usually confused with labor contract violations, in which the special court would come in handy. In 2012, there have only been two out of twenty-nine traffickers convicted for labor exploitation, showing that the judiciary is not paying enough attention to it. “Trafficking in Persons… ”, 2012. );(Reyes, 2012. ) The special court would help differentiate the two, and allow the human trafficking cases to be dealt with properly. (“Trafficking in Persons… ”, 2012) Expertise and uniformity are traits of special courts, and could be put to good use so that there is consistency in applying the law. The expertise of judges in specialized courts are likely to produce better decisions in the respective cases and are less likely to generate appeals to be taken. (Zimmer, 2009. )
The judiciary has established several special courts for other cases, which gives a legal precedent for human trafficking courts. The Administrative circular no. 104-96 from the Supreme Court discusses the establishment of special courts that cater to heinous crimes for speedy and efficient justice. (“Administrative Circular No. 104-96”, 1996) This document shows that special courts have been done before, so it implies that it can be done again. Environmental courts, extrajudicial killings, and tax courts are some of the examples of special courts established in the Philippines.
Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento of the first district of Samar is pushing for the creation of special courts for human trafficking, saying that “the Philippines is close to Somalia and Myanmar as regards trafficking, merchandising their people like cattle. If congress can create courts for drug traffickers why not a court for human traffickers too? ” (Quirante, 2010. ) In other nations such as Dubai and India, special human trafficking courts have been effectively established. Dubai believes that the special human trafficking courts established would speed up cases. Constantine, 2010. ) Meanwhile, the human trafficking court in Mumbai disposed a large backlog of cases in a span of a year, which included 438 cases, and convictions in 81 cases. It also ordered the closure of 11 brothels. (“US Officials Impressed”, 2011) This proves that it is an effective solution to exercise justice, and to help bring criminals behind bars. A political benefit that the Philippines could gain from establishing special courts is the improvement of the nation’s ranking in the United States’ Trafficking in Persons Report.
Currently, the nation is ranked in tier 2, which means that the country is making significant efforts to fight human trafficking, but it does not yet meet minimum standards. Why should the nation take an effort in improving our tier ranking? If the nation falls into tier 3, the US would withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance as a consequence. (“Tiers: Placement… ”, 2011) This is important because not only would the country be able to maintain the implementation of rights, but also maintain good diplomatic relations with the United States.
Secondly, special courts would help prevent human trafficking. This is due to the fact that the courts would be an effective deterrent to the criminals involved in the crime. It would lessen the economic advantages and benefits that make the industry appealing to people, and it would help alleviate the economic and political consequences of human trafficking. When the suspects, and people who are interested in getting involved in the industry, see that justice is being enforced, they will eventually act on their fear of being caught and possibly stop in their advances.
If not, the possibility of them being caught could possibly increase as society becomes more and more aware of human trafficking, and more confident in filing complaints as they see justice being served. Not only would it put criminals behind bars, but it would also put their name to shame. In the first quarter of 2013, a new law was signed by President Benigno Aquino. Republic Act 10364, the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, removed the confidentiality provision in the previous law, RA 9208.
RA 9208 does not allow the names and circumstances of the victims and the criminal to be made public at any stage of investigation, rescue, prosecution and trial. With the confidentiality clause removed, this allows the public to know the identity of the criminals, so as not to risk being victimized by them. (Punay, 2013. ) With the special court at hand, the criminals would not only be humiliated publicly, but they will be put to justice quickly. Special courts could aid in alleviating the loss of human resources due to trafficking.
In human trafficking, the labor force is misused and therefore, is kept from contributing to the nation’s economy that causes the loss of revenue. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008) The labor force should be able to provide for their family and contribute to taxes for the betterment of the nation, but with the potential labor force being exploited in human trafficking, this does not allow them to do so. With putting the criminals behind bars in a more efficient way, it prevents people from being trafficked in the first place.
Special courts could also eventually help stop the unlawful distribution of national wealth, and influences markets, political power, and societal relations. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008) Traffickers affect fair competition due to the fact that some companies outsource their productions for a cheaper price, not knowing that trafficked people are used in the factories. Traffickers make 32 billion annually. Not only is it untaxed, but people who actually provided the labor do not gain from this. (“An Introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008. )
Special courts would also lessen human trafficking’s political implications due to illegal immigration. Migration policies are tightened because of illegal immigration. Due to these policies, victims are forced to enter other countries illegally, and when they are caught, the may be considered as collaborators which makes the implementation of rights as an issue. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008. ) This could also lead to giving people difficult time in looking for better work opportunities abroad, due to the fact that they could not migrate easily.
It benefits people in a way that trafficking could be prevented, but traffickers find other ways to get the victims through the borders. Trafficking victims and smuggled people are different because smuggled people gain their freedom when they reach their destination while trafficked victims are not. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008. ) With the courts established, and the criminals sent behind bars, the opportunity for them to traffic more innocent people in ther nations, where they are subject to human rights violations. It is important to refer to the Mumbai Special court, that was successful in eradicating trafficking in the city to some extent due to the closing of human-trafficking related businesses, and justice being served to the criminals. (“US Officials Impressed… ”, 2011) Lastly, special courts would reintegrate the victim to society faster. Human trafficking, as a grave violation to human rights, has a psychological effect on victims.
The protection of the victims and the witnesses during the timeframe of the case’s trial is also a vital need required of the law, and without this protection, the timeframe is lengthened. There is also a need to make society realize that the victim was at no fault to push it to accept the victim again. How do these things contribute to faster reintegration of the victim to society? Psychological and medical help is required of the law, and it is the court’s duty to make sure that the victim gets to enjoy these benefits. RA 9208, 2003. ) Most human trafficking victims experience post-traumatic stress, which should be brought into attention so that it could be alleviated, thus helping the victim live a normal life again. (Williamson, Dutch, Clawson, 2012. ) This is due to the victims being drugged or being deprived of their basic needs such as food as “motivation” to work by their traffickers. (Challenger, 2010. ) It is presumed that the specialized court would assist the victims properly, and according to their needs. (Reyes, 2012. )
Another responsibility of the court is to ensure protection of not only the victim, but also the witness. It is required by the Anti-Trafficking law. (RA 9208, 2003. ) This would insure protection so that both victims and witnesses won’t be afraid to tell the truth. (Reyes, 2012. ) Dubai believes that the special human trafficking court would provide a safe environment for witnesses. (Constantine, 2010. ) Fear suppresses the implementation of justice. Fear of retaliation causes the victims and/or witnessed to withdraw or decline cooperation which leads to a lengthy trial.
In 2010, only 3 trafficking cases were assisted by the Department of Justice due to unwillingness of the victims. (US Department of State, 2011. as cited by (“Human Trafficking in East Asia & Pacific.. ”, n. d. ) The less time it takes to conclude the case, the easier it is for the victim to cooperate, because in slow trials, there is a fear of the possibility of the accused party could retaliate and scare off the victim and/or witnesses. In Philippine Special Courts, mandatory continuous trial that should be terminated within 60 days and the decision should be rendered within 30. “Administrative Circular No. 104-96”, 1996) This timeframe is reasonable enough to allow the court to collect evidences and investigate, and for the judge to study the case well in order to render a fair decision. Special courts, when they implement justice, would help society realize that the victim was not at fault. It would help society accept the victim. In most cases, being trafficked affects the social stigma of the victim, who is disapproved for returning without promised wealth.
Society has the tendency to blame the victim for disgracing his/herself and his/her family due to the fact that they don’t realize that the trafficker is at fault, and not the victim. (“An introduction to Human Trafficking”, 2008. ) With the special court, it would be made clear that the victim was, indeed a victim, and did not consent to the injustices that he/she suffered. This would also show that the government is, indeed, taking the issue seriously, and will do what they can to make sure that the offenders pay for their crimes.
It would also help society become aware of the seriousness of human trafficking as an issue in the country. The establishment of special courts is a good and practical solution that could be immediately applied by the nation. With the implications that the establishment of the special courts is to be well-studied by the judiciary for good implementation, resulting in good, educated decisions in choosing qualified staff, strategic placement of physical courts, then the special court would be maximized in helping towards the eradication of human trafficking.
Courtney from Study Moose
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