Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for the allocation of more funds for the government’s crackdown on all forms of human trafficking, including online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC).

Gatchalian flagged a cut of almost 35 percent on the budget of anti-trafficking in person enforcement from PHP90 million in the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) down to PHP59 million in the proposed 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“Human trafficking is a clear and present danger in our country. It’s still happening right now,” Gatchalian said in a news release on Sunday.

During the recent Senate Committee on Finance’s hearing on the proposed 2023 budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its attached agencies, Gatchalian quizzed the DOJ whether the budget cut would affect the Philippines’ Tier 1 ranking under the United States Department of State’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Report for 2022, which the Philippines has maintained since 2016.

Countries with a Tier 1 ranking have met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.

Justice Undersecretary Nicky Ty confirmed that the budget cut would affect the country’s Tier 1 ranking.

Gatchalian emphasized the need to fund and implement the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022, a law which he co-authored and sponsored.

The law was signed in June this year. Gatchalian was also a co-author of another relevant law: the Anti-Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act (Republic Act 11930), which lapsed into law last July.

According to the DOJ, these two laws would make the government more capable in curtailing human trafficking, OSAEC and other crimes.

Ty pointed out, however, that under the NEP, the budget for training, among others, was completely slashed.

Since the anti-OSAEC and CSAEM law also mandates the creation of the National Coordination Center Against OSAEC and CSAEM under the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the DOJ said it would need funding for the hiring of necessary personnel.

“If we can increase the budget just a bit more, so much the better,” Gatchalian said, assuring the DOJ of his support on the government’s crackdown on human trafficking. (PNA)