There have been many online conversations on the recent incidents of Filipinos being offloaded or missing their flights due to extensive questioning by Bureau of Immigration officers. A common question on this issue is: “Why are immigration officers overly strict on Filipinos leaving the country?” The short answer is to prevent human trafficking.
Human trafficking is punished under Republic Act 11862, also known as the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022”. Section 3(a) thereof provides the following definition of human trafficking:
“(a) Trafficking in Persons refers to the recruitment, obtaining, hiring, providing, offering, transportation, transfer, maintaining, 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 the engagement of others for the production or distribution, or both, of materials that depict child sexual abuse or exploitation, or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, or the removal or sale of organs.
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, adoption or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation or when the adoption is induced by any form of consideration for exploitative purposes, shall also be considered as ‘trafficking in persons’ even if it does not involve any of the means set forth in the preceding paragraph.”
The Philippine government has annually reported and identified thousands of Filipino victims that were exploited in sex trafficking, forced labor, and other forms of exploitation. The United Nations has identified the Philippines as a source country for human trafficking with its citizens being trafficked all over the world. Hence, the government has taken steps by enacting laws to ensure that all Filipinos who depart from the country are protected from every form of exploitation.
RA 11862 also strengthens our existing laws by combating modern forms of human trafficking committed in cyberspace. According to a 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department, there has been a 265 percent increase in unconfirmed reports of online child sexual abuse during the pandemic. Under the expanded law, offenders who commit human trafficking by or through the use of information and communications technology or any computer system are punished with life imprisonment as the said offense is now classified as Qualified Trafficking in Persons.
The key provisions of RA 11862 also introduced liability for internet intermediaries who knowingly or by gross negligence allow their internet infrastructure to be used for Trafficking in Persons. Internet intermediaries include:
1) Internet Service Providers (ISPs);
2) Data processing and web hosting providers including domain name registrars;
3) Internet search engines and portals;
4) E-commerce intermediaries;
5) Internet payment system providers whether supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or not; and
6) Participative network platform providers or social media intermediaries.
While the dissatisfaction of Filipinos with strict immigration policies is understandable, this is balanced with the paramount interest of the government in ensuring the safety and protection of all Philippine citizens who travel abroad.