On June 23, former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11862 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022, which amends the existing RA No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

Department of Justice Chief State Counsel and Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Undersecretary-in-Charge George Ortha II shares that part of the key provisions make “internet intermediaries”, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), internet search engine and portals, social media platforms, and internet payment system providers, accountable if they “knowingly or by gross negligence allow their internet infrastructure to be used for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons.”

“At the start of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the number of human trafficking cases, especially concerning the exploitation of children on the internet, particularly on social media platforms. It is time that we expand our measures online and hold these platforms accountable.” Said Chief Ortha.

In addition, “tourism enterprises”, such as accommodation establishments, transport services, restaurants, resorts, and recreational services; and “financial intermediaries”, such as banks, credit card and money remittance institutions, will also be liable if they knowingly or by gross negligence allow their services or platform be used for promoting trafficking.

Chief Ortha added that, “IACAT’s goal is to strengthen its collaboration with the private sector, especially those in banking and tourism industries. It is not uncommon for traffickers to penetrate legitimate activities and capitalize on it to serve their illicit purposes. We also took note that more than 70% of the victims were placed and exploited in these lawful establishments, and right under the noses of regular employees working there.”

Under the new law, it will be considered as “qualified trafficking” when the crime is committed during a crisis, disaster, public health concern, pandemic, humanitarian conflict, or emergency situation, or when the trafficked person is a survivor of a disaster or human-induced conflict.

The law also prohibits producing, printing, and issuing or distributing unissued, tampered, or fake passports and birth certificates as acts that promote trafficking in persons.

In addition, authorities will be allowed to intercept any communication of a person charged with, suspected, or reasonably believed to have committed violations under RA No. 9208, but only upon court order. However, a written order will not be required when the victim is a minor and the crime, having been committed in flagrante delicto, involves the use of computer systems or digital platforms.

IACAT Executive Director SASP Wendell Bendoval is optimistic that more trafficking cases will be resolved faster as the new law mandates law enforcement agencies to initiate investigation within 10 days upon receipt of statements, reports, or affidavits of the crime.

“While we do our best to deliver justice in a swift phase, with the new law, there is now no excuse for officials to delay service. More victims will be rescued, more perpetrators will be put to jail.” Said SASP Bendoval.