Gatchalian pushes for bigger budget vs human trafficking

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is seeking additional funds for the government's crackdown on human trafficking, including online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC).

Gatchalian earlier flagged the almost 35 percent cut on the proposed budget for the anti-trafficking in persons enforcement of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from ₱90 million in the 2022 General Appropriations Act down to ₱59 million in the proposed 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

In a statement released on Sunday, Gatchalian assured the DOJ of his support for the government's crackdown on human trafficking.

"If we can increase the budget just a bit more, so much the better," he said.

"Human trafficking is a clear and present danger in our country. It's still happening right now," he added.

Gatchalian emphasized the need to fund and implement the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 which he co-authored and sponsored. The law, which expanded the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, was signed last June. He also co-authored the Anti-Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) and the Anti-Child Sexual Abuse of Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act, which lapsed into law last July.

During the Senate Committee on Finance's hearing on the DOJ’s proposed budget, Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Ty confirmed that the budget cut would affect the country's Tier 1 ranking in the U.S. Department of State's 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, which the Philippines has earned since 2016.

According to the U.S. State Department, countries and territories have fully met the minimum standards in eliminating human trafficking under the top classification status.

The DOJ said the two laws would enable the government to efficiently curb human trafficking, OSAEC and other crimes, but the budget for training, among others, were completely slashed under the NEP.

The DOJ also said it needs funding for the hiring of more personnel as the two laws mandate the creation of the National Coordination Center Against OSAEC and CSAEM under the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.