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2005-04-07 08:30:00
Embassy Manila
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001618 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2015





Classified By: Deputy Pol/C Joseph Novak for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Mission has underscored to the GRP the
possibility that the U.S. might place the Philippines on the
TIP Tier 3 list due to lack of convictions and allegations of
official corruption, among other reasons. We have repeatedly
requested comprehensive statistics about prosecutions and
convictions, but have not yet received additional solid
information. According to GRP officials, the GRP is working
on new ways to assist prosecutions, including by assigning
"special prosecutors" to some regions where trafficking is
particularly severe. Despite new and ongoing TIP
prosecutions, the glacial speed of the Philippines' legal
system makes convictions under the 2003 TIP law unlikely
until at least next year. Mission has been unable to uncover
hard evidence on allegations of TIP-related corruption by
Filipino diplomats in Japan. There is growing concern that
designation as a Tier 3 country would undercut anti-TIP
activists within the GRP, undermine new efforts, and damage
cooperation with the USG. End Summary.


Sounding the Warnings


2. (C) Mission has underscored to the GRP the possibility
that the U.S. might place the Philippines on Tier 3 this year
due primarily to lack of convictions as well as allegations
of official corruption. Pol/C met on March 30 with President
Arroyo's General Legal Counsel (and former Acting Secretary
of Justice) Maria Merceditas N. Gutierrez, who also serves as
the GRP's anti-corruption czar and is personally committed to
anti-TIP efforts. Gutierrez expressed surprise and concern
at the lack of available statistics and promised immediately
to issue a directive for concerned agencies to assemble
necessary documentation. (As of April 7, however, we have
not received new information -- see below.) During an April
1 meeting, Dep Pol/C discussed TIP with Philippine Gaming and
Amusement Commission (PAGCOR) Chairman Efraim Genuino, a
close associate of President Arroyo's. Genuino, who said he
has made four recent trips to Japan to discuss TIP issues at
the behest of the President, said that he understood the
gravity of the situation and that the GRP was committed to
countering TIP, gaining convictions, and cooperating with the
U.S. in any way in order to avoid being placed on Tier 3.
Dep Pol/C also met with opposition Senator Maria Ana Consuelo
"Jamby" Madrigal, a staunch anti-TIP activist, on April 4 to
discuss TIP. Madrigal promised to continue to urge the GRP
to do more.


Prosecution Update


3. (SBU) Justice Attache and poloff met on March 29 with
Robert Larga, the Department of Justice (DOJ) official who
heads the secretariat of the GRP's Inter-Agency Council
Against Trafficking (IACAT). Larga said that there were 19
cases under prosecution and 28 cases under investigation
based on the 2003 Anti-Trafficking Law (R.A. 9208) as of late
last year, but that there had been no convictions yet. He
could not confirm whether these figures were comprehensive,
nor could he provide more current figures. According to DOJ
and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officials,
additional cases are under investigation and they expect soon
to file more charges under R.A. 9208.

4. (SBU) However, the International Justice Mission (IJM),
a well-known international NGO working on TIP cases (and the
recipient of a State Department grant here) and other
contacts have confirmed only six known cases in prosecution
under R.A. 9208. Officials predicted a court decision on at
least one case -- People v. Tongco and Jerson -- some time in
the next year. IJM also plans to prosecute another new case
soon under R.A. 9208 related to eight TIP victims whom
Visayan Forum Foundation (another State Department grantee
here) rescued on March 3 at Batangas port, south of Manila.
Police have already arrested a suspected trafficker. (Note:
It is a unique feature of Philippine law that NGOs are
allowed to bring trafficking cases, with the permission of
the DOJ. end note)

5. (SBU) The DOJ and the NBI have not yet been able to
provide information on trafficking-related cases under
prosecution based on other relevant laws, including: R.A.
7610, the Special Protection of Children Law; R.A. 8042, the
Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Law; R.A. 8043, the
Inter-Country Adoption Law; and, R.A. 9231, the Anti-Child
Labor Law. IJM has at least four cases in trial under R.A.

7610. IACAT's Larga told poloff that there had been 11
convictions for passport fraud in 2004 (R.A. 8239), but could
not confirm whether these convictions were specifically
linked with trafficking. He noted, however, that this crime
often involves TIP.


GRP Moves to Assist Prosecutions


6. (SBU) According to Embassy contacts, the GRP plans
additional institutional changes to assist TIP prosecutions.
IACAT's Larga told poloff that the DOJ will designate
"special prosecutors" dedicated to anti-TIP prosecutions at
regional sites throughout the country where the trafficking
problem is particularly severe. He said that DOJ had already
identified these prosecutors, who are now undergoing training
on R.A. 9208. In addition, the DOJ is developing a practical
anti-TIP manual for all prosecutors nationwide fully to
explain the provisions of R.A. 9208. Larga added that the
DOJ will also issue instructions to prosecutors directing
them to object to motions in court for dismissal of
TIP-related cases when there seems to have been pressure
placed on victims or witnesses by bribes or threats to recant
their testimony.


"Report Card"


7. (SBU) In September 2004, G/TIP provided six
recommendations to several GRP departments working on TIP
issues to highlight how the GRP could show progress in
combating trafficking. Current status of these:

-- Recommendation 1: Aggressively implement the new
anti-trafficking law, leading to a discernible increase in
investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of

Assessment: See paras 3-5 above

-- Recommendation 2: Train police and immigration officials,
judges, and elected officials on the new anti-trafficking law
and provide information on how many officers received
training and on how the GRP implements training in the field.

Assessment: As reviewed in ref B, hundreds of police,
immigration officials, judges, and elected officials have
been receiving training on TIP and the anti-trafficking law.
NGOs and the GRP have been working together to implement this
training nationwide.

-- Recommendation 3: Combine the separate case investigation
processes at the DOJ and the NBI into a single dedicated team.

Assessment: There has been no apparent movement on this.

-- Recommendation 4: Increase the volume and speed of TIP
trials by ensuring the exclusive focus of the dedicated team
of four DOJ TIP prosecutors. Augment prosecution bandwidth
by working with NGOs such as IJM.

Assessment: The four dedicated TIP prosecutors are burdened
with other, non-TIP-related cases. The GRP is working
effectively with IJM and other NGOs.

-- Recommendation 5: Develop a mechanism within the DOJ to
report monthly case statistics and post the statistics on the

Assessment: As noted above, case statistics continue to be
sketchy. The DOJ does not yet have in place a system to
correlate case statistics every month or quarter from offices
nationwide. According to IACAT's Larga, this mechanism
should be in place later this year.

-- Recommendation 6: Tighten certification process for
entertainers destined to countries where TIP is a problem.

Assessment: The Japanese government's tightened visa rules
regarding Overseas Performing Artists (OPAs) -- which were
implemented on March 15 -- obviated the previous requirement
for GRP-issued Artist Record Books for travel to Japan. The
GRP took the step of returning responsibility for issuing
ARB's to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) in
September 2004 after reports of serious corruption at the
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The POEA's performance is reportedly an improvement over
that of TESDA.


Allegations of Corruption


8. (C) Mission has asked contacts about allegations that
Filipino diplomats in Tokyo and Osaka have pocketed money
meant for use as a "bond" for the protection of OPAs employed
in Japan. According to GRP regulations, the POEA requires
each Japanese promoter to deposit USD 20,000 into an escrow
account in a Philippine bank, channeling the money through
the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo or the Consulate General in
Osaka. (Note: This tracks with POEA's standard operating
procedure requiring a deposit for most overseas contract
workers, not just OPAs. end note) This money is to serve as
an escrow bond against any potential claims the performer may
file against the promoter or club owner, and is held in an
account in the promoter's name in the Philippines until five
years after the promoter concludes business. After five
years, the promoter is free to withdraw the money and its
interest, less any claims deducted for compensation. When
there is a dispute between the performer and the employer
that might involve compensation, the GRP's National Labor
Relations Commission (NLRC), a quasi-judicial body,
adjudicates the claim.

9. (C) According to DFA officials, such allegations remain
unproven, and no Filipino diplomats have been disciplined or
fired. The Japanese Embassy in Manila is aware of the
allegations of corruption, but does not have any real




10. (C) GRP contacts continue to make all the right sounds
about TIP and readily acknowledge the need for convictions.
They note at the same time, however, that the Philippine
legal system is notoriously slow, primarily due to the fact
that trials are non-contiguous (i.e., trials proceed
intermittently, interrupted by other pending cases). They
have stressed the need for patience regarding convictions,
especially given the relative newness of R.A. 9208. They
appear to understand that the international community needs
to see real progress in the fight against TIP. The GRP's
designation of "special prosecutors" on a regional level for
TIP, additional attempts to protect victim and witness
testimony, and development of more comprehensive statistical
databases will be welcome. There is growing concern,
however, that designation as a Tier 3 country will undercut
anti-TIP activists within the GRP, undermine interest in
pursuing additional initiatives, and diminish the willingness
of the GRP to cooperate with the USG on TIP issues, despite
the GRP's clear opposition to TIP and uneven, but real,
progress in anti-TIP efforts.