ABA ROLI, Partners Pursue a New Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy

September 2012

In the Philippines, as in many countries, criminal prosecutions against human traffickers can be lengthy and often lack appropriate remuneration for survivors. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in partnership with the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law’s Development Foundation and with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has been working to promote civil-asset forfeiture as a swifter and surer remedy.

An attorney from the Gender Justice Network presents her group’s outputs after the workshop session while Assistant Solicitor General Roman del Rosario and AMLC Deputy Director Richard David Funk listen to provide their feedback.

An attorney from the Gender Justice Network presents her group’s outputs after the workshop session.

This strategy involves bringing civil lawsuits under the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to seize assets either used in, or purchased with the proceeds of, human trafficking. For those unfamiliar with the act though, pursuing such lawsuits—which involves filing a complaint with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which in turn files for a freeze-and-seize order before a judge—can be a complex and daunting process.

To help address the challenges, on August 17, ABA ROLI and the UP development foundation held the first of three trainings on how the AMLA can be used to tackle human trafficking. A total of 40 people, including lawyers and representatives of anti-human trafficking groups, attended the Manila training.

The training was based on a training program and a handbook that ABA ROLI and the UP development foundation created in close coordination with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General and the AMLC. The handbook covers civil remedies under the AMLA and helps lawyers and non-lawyers identify human traffickers and assets that are susceptible to seizure under the act. The training encourages coordination between law enforcement agencies charged with combating money laundering and those involved with fighting human trafficking, while leveraging civil society resources.

The training allowed participants to share real-life challenges and discuss them with AMLC Deputy Director Richard Funk and Assistant Solicitor General Roman Del Rosario. Participants also worked in groups to solve hypothetical AMLA cases.  Catherine Hamlin, USAID’s democracy and governance officer in the Philippines, said that all countries face challenges in fighting human trafficking and congratulated ABA ROLI and the UP development foundation for their innovative strategy.

Hanna Guison, an advocate from the faith-based non-profit International Justice Mission (IJM), saw the seminar as an opportunity to learn how to incorporate AMLA into IJM’s anti-human trafficking work. While IJM has targeted human trafficking through more than a hundred criminal, civil and administrative cases in the past 11 years, it has yet to utilize the AMLA and civil-asset forfeiture. Guison said that the training showed her that the AMLA offered a promising avenue for IJM to target human trafficking.

Christina Sevilla, an attorney from a non-profit network striving to end child prostitution, pornography and trafficking, said that the training has taught them how they can put an idea they had into practice. “We always talked about filing a separate civil action suit, but we didn’t know about AMLA.”

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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