President Rodrigo R. Duterte (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed a law giving authorities additional tools for pursuing human traffickers, particularly when the violations involve the use of the internet and digital platforms.

Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11862 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 on June 23, but a copy of the document was released to reporters on Tuesday.

The law amends RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

Among the key provisions of the RA 11862 is making accountable "internet intermediaries" who "knowingly or by gross negligence allow their internet infrastructure to be used for the purpose of promoting trafficking in persons."

It also holds accountable “financial intermediaries”, including banks and credit card companies and money transfer or remittance centers, who knowingly or by gross negligence allow their services, online platform, and applications, among others to be used for promoting trafficking.

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

Under the RA 11862, law enforcement agencies are mandated to immediately initiate an investigation and counter-trafficking intelligence gathering motu proprio or within 10 days upon receipt of statements, reports, or affidavits from victims of trafficking, migrant workers, or their families, internet intermediaries, and other persons who have personal knowledge or information about possible violations of this act including the private sector.

It also directs law enforcement officers to track, intercept, view, monitor, surveil, listen to, and record using any type of electronic or intercepting devices, any communications, information, or messages, a person charged with, suspected, or reasonably believed to have committed violations upon a written order from the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

However, a written order from the RTC will not be required when the victim is a child and the offense involves the use of computer systems and digital platforms.

“Any person who has personal knowledge of the commission of any offense under this Act, such as the trafficked person, the parents, spouse, siblings, children, legal guardian, officer or social worker or representative of a licensed child-caring institution, officer, or social worker of the DSWD, Philippine National Police or National Bureau of Investigation, officers, barangay chairperson, or at least three concerned citizens where the violation occurred, may file a complaint under this Act,” according to RA 11862.

In the old law, only a person who has personal knowledge of the commission of any offense under the act, the trafficked person, the parents, spouse, siblings, children, or legal guardian may file a complaint for trafficking.

RA 11862 is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2499 and House Bill No. 10658, which was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives last February 2. (PNA)