Last June 23, 2022, former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11862, otherwise known as the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022.
RA 11862 serves as an amendment to RA 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
As reported by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), 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.”
Cybersecurity remains to be a growing concern in the Philippines, with many Filipinos turning to online transactions and alike to live more efficiently, such as cashless pay through services like GCash and PayMaya; even with online shopping through Shopee, Lazada, Amazon, and more.
Another important amendment mentioned is the investigation protocol wherein
“Law enforcement agencies are mandated to immediately initiate an investigation and counter-trafficking intelligence within 10 days upon receipt of statements, reports, or affidavits from victims of trafficking, migrant workers, or their families, internet intermediaries, and other persons, including those in the private sector, who have personal knowledge or information, about possible violations of RA 11862.” (CFO, July 2022).
Despite the aim of the amendment to aid and protect our OFW workers, an adjustment made in RA 11862, namely Section 4 has changed the minimum age for a domestic worker from age 23 to 24.
“(m) To recruit, transport, obtain, transfer harbor, maintain, offer, hire, provide, receive, or adopt a child for deployment abroad as a migrant worker.
Provided, that when the victim is a child, the means to commit these unlawful acts as enumerated in the first paragraph of this section shall not be necessary: Provided further, that in the case of overseas domestic work, a ‘child’ means a person below twenty-four (24) years old.”
With this sudden change, the plans of several Filipinos in the midst of preparation to depart soon or undergoing recruitment for overseas employment were disrupted; especially with the lack of a grace period for those that need to adjust their plans because of the provision. Additionally, the provision violates migrant women’s right to work and travel, consistent with the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation 26 on Low-waged Women Migrants, which forbids States to impose age-specific bans, among others.
In celebration of the 18 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we here at the Central Migrant Advocacy, Phils. Inc., wish to give attention to the possible dangers of these provisions, especially to our Women Migrant Workers.
Women mostly dominate the overseas domestic work industry and thus are more prone to the violence of trafficking and other sexual crimes, but an implementation of an age-limitation to deny them employment is not the best decision to protect Filipino women. This is especially important due to the hardships endured through the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the already existing lack of proper support from the government that causes Filipinos to seek employment overseas in the first place.
As lifted from the official statement of CMA and other partner organizations (Lawyers Beyond Borders Philippines, Inc., Philippine Migration Research Network, and the Working Group on Migration, Political Science Department of Ateneo de Manila University):
“Research on migrant bans shows that migrants resort to irregular routes such as third-party networks, illegal recruitment, and marriage migration whenever restrictions are imposed on their mobility. Such a scenario makes their situation more precarious and more prone to abuse and exploitation.”
Additionally, the imposition of an age ban of overseas employment for Filipinos aged 18-24 and the explicit labeling of these individuals as “children” robs them of their agency and rights to represent themselves and fails to empower these individuals to provide for themselves through safe and legal employment.
For more information, you may refer to the full statement of the CMA and other partners on the dangers of Section 4 of the RA 11862: https://bit.ly/3Q1Ms44. Additionally, readers may refer to CFO lauds expanded law against human trafficking from CFO and Duterte inks expanded anti-trafficking in persons law from the Philippine News Agency on more general details and other provisions of RA 11862.