We condemn the new policy imposed by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) that requires Filipinos going abroad to present more documents to immigration officials before they are allowed to board their flights. This new policy is misguided and violates Filipinos’ right to travel. It should be junked immediately.

In its statement announcing the new policy, the IACAT itself said that it does not intend “to encroach upon the fundamental right to travel” but to combat human trafficking. Intention is one thing and effect is another, and this new policy — by imposing so many documentary requirements for travel, and increasing the element of arbitrariness in immigration officials’ decisions — violates Filipinos’ right to travel. The fight against human trafficking does not justify this violation.

The Philippines is a top labor exporter and its migration policies have been examined globally especially from a human rights-based approach. It seems that the IACAT did not use that lens in making this policy, which will surely fail from a rights-based examination. 

Furthermore, the policy adds to the already considerable state exactions that have been imposed on Overseas Filipino Workers and all migrant Filipinos. The Philippine government, including the Bongbong Marcos regime, has consistently treated migrant Filipinos as milking cows, to the extent of violating their rights and taking food away from the tables of their families. 

From all indications, the IACAT came up with this policy unilaterally. The country has a vibrant and vocal community of migrant organizations and CSOs that should be consulted before any policy affecting migrants are crafted. 

We seriously doubt the IACAT’s optimism that the new policy will cause “a palpable reduction, if not outright elimination, of human trafficking incidents.” The new policy puts the burden of fighting human trafficking on individual Filipinos, not on the government or human traffickers and their syndicates. We, for example, have been demanding swift government action on human trafficking cases — such as the student visa scam for travel to Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia — but government response has so far been snail-paced, if not non-existent.

The new policy leaves unaddressed the material conditions enabling human trafficking — widespread joblessness, landlessness and poverty in the Philippines. In fact, the Bongbong Marcos regime has intensified the government’s labor export program and has done nothing to provide immediate relief — from soaring prices of basic goods and services for example — to Filipinos, let alone create the foundations for job creation at home. ###