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Group: Use anti-trafficking laws vs. traffickers, not advocates

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MANILA, Sept. 25, 2015 – The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) lamented how laws passed precisely to protect people from becoming victims of human trafficking and punish those found guilty of it are reportedly being used against human rights advocates.

“The issue of human trafficking is far too important and urgent to be messed with in this way, by turning the laws intended to address it, into a means of legal harassment of community organizations advocating for justice. The PIMAHT calls for an immediate end to this misuse of the anti-trafficking laws that serves to trivialize and belittle the urgent fight to end human trafficking,” says the group in a statement.

‘Trumped-up’ charges

PIMAHT goes on to add how it feels “disturbed” when these laws are used for political ends to bring false and trumped-up charges against groups working for the rights of disadvantaged sectors of society.

Citing a report issued by the US State Department, PIMAHT notes that the Philippine government is being criticized for not doing enough to “to hold government officials administratively and criminally accountable for trafficking and trafficking-related offenses through criminal prosecutions, convictions, and stringent sentences.”

The interfaith movement bemoans there are government officials who are complicit in human trafficking and able to act with impunity.

It adds that the military and police turn anti-trafficking laws against human rights defenders and indigenous peoples (IP) advocates.

Form of slavery

“In the Philippines only the tip of the iceberg that is human trafficking has begun to be addressed. It is important that as a nation we have laws that now address the curse of human trafficking and the pain and suffering that this form of slavery brings to its victims,” it explains.

PIMAHT shares that in July, government security forces accused 70 people, among them Catholic religious and Protestant pastors, of forcing Lumad evacuees to stay at the Haran House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao.

According to the group, the charges filed against them by the police and the Army include human trafficking.

Harassment

“The use of laws on human trafficking to harass and intimidate those working for the welfare of the Lumad people of Mindanao is not only an illegitimate form of harassment, but also detracts from the important issue of the fight against human trafficking for which the laws enacted,” it adds.

PIMAHT is an ecumenical movement spearheaded by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), and the National Council of Churches in the Phili ppines (NCCP) committed to “stand together as defenders of justice to end human trafficking the Philippines.” (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)


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