The government maintained protection efforts. Although the government did not report comprehensive statistics for the total number of victims identified and assistance provided, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported serving 1,713 possible trafficking victims, of whom 1,434 were female, compared with 1,465 victims in 2015. DSWD reported assisting 530 victims of illegal recruitment, 465 victims of sex trafficking and 232 victims of labor trafficking. DFA, in collaboration with host governments, NGOs, and international organizations, assisted 348 Filipino potential victims in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. DFA disbursed 1.6 million pesos ($33,160) from its Assistance to Nationals Fund exclusively for trafficking victim protection and assistance and expended 209,700 pesos ($4,230) for legal assistance to trafficking victims. Through its hotline, the Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO) assisted 20 possible trafficking victims, of whom 15 were female and five minors. CFO allocated 800,000 pesos ($16,130) for direct assistance to trafficking victims and their families. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported identifying 140 adult trafficking victims, all but two of whom were victims of domestic servitude, but did not report information about services provided to these victims. The government continued to implement formal procedures to identify victims in the Philippines and overseas and to refer them to official agencies or NGO facilities for care. Philippine officials identified victims through law enforcement operations, border screenings, reports to embassies abroad, and calls to the national anti-trafficking help line.
The government, through its recovery and reintegration program and in partnership with NGOs, provided victims with temporary shelter, psycho-social support, medical services, legal assistance, livelihood assistance, and skills training. It sustained an allocation of approximately 23 million pesos ($463,790) to implement this program. DSWD continued to operate 44 residential care facilities and two halfway houses at border entry points, which provided services to victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation, but it did not report the number of trafficking victims who received temporary shelter. No DSWD shelter is designated solely for the specialized care of for trafficking victims. Available shelter and other assistance services remained inadequate to address the specific needs of victims, including child victims of online sexual exploitation and male victims. Budget constraints continued to limit victim access to mental health services. Child sex trafficking victims who resided in a shelter and participated as witnesses in prosecutions were often interviewed multiple times and remained in the shelter through the time required for the court case, which may have added additional trauma and delayed reintegration. Adult victims residing in shelters were permitted to leave unchaperoned, provided there were no threats to their personal security or psychological care issues. During the reporting period, Philippine officials maintained a temporary shelter for male Filipino trafficking victims in Saudi Arabia. NGOs delivered the vast majority of specialized services to trafficking victims, although the government provided an unknown funding amount to one NGO-run shelter. The lack of long-term care, absence of mental health services, and familial involvement in facilitating exploitation continued to leave many victims vulnerable to re-trafficking.
In Mindanao, where protracted armed conflict and reports of recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups continued, the government, in collaboration with international organizations, established a hotline and conducted three Monitoring, Reporting, and Response System (MRRS) workshops for 83 lawyers, investigators, and human rights advocates to facilitate reporting of grave human rights violations, including child soldiering. The national government issued a circular to local government units, instructing them to adopt the MRRS, and the military issued a circular on child protection. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported the rescue or surrender of 19 children from the New People’s Army between January and August 2016, but it did not report information about services to them. Through an action plan developed by the UN and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), approximately 178 children were disengaged from armed groups during the reporting period and, in consultation with national and regional governments, an international organization initiated a program to assist children disengaged from armed groups. There were reports soldiers of the AFP detained and interrogated children, and in one instance tortured a child, suspected of associating with armed groups. The Commission on Human Rights is investigating the case of alleged torture. Also during the reporting period, municipal authorities worked to reintegrate a child who has been working at an AFP camp for three years in a non-combat role.
Under its witness protection program, justice officials protected witnesses from reprisals by providing security, immunity from criminal prosecution, housing, livelihood and travel expenses, medical benefits, education, and vocational placement. During the reporting period this program assisted nine additional victims of trafficking and continued to provide services to 98 victims enrolled in previous years. Judicial officials used restitution provisions and awarded damages to victims; however, these monetary penalties imposed upon offenders often went unpaid due to perpetrators’ financial incapacity or the complex legal process required when a convicted trafficker is able to pay. NGOs confirmed government officials did not punish victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. While the government did not identify foreign victims in the Philippines during the reporting period, it had long-term alternatives to deportation of victims to countries where victims may face hardship or retribution.