The Palace on Friday called for the immediate passage of amendments to Republic Act (RA) 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which would hike penalties on those convicted of child trafficking.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Duterte administration’s priority was to make individuals and groups involved in the trafficking of children for prostitution and other crimes fully answerable for their offenses.

“The President wants to increase and tighten the penalties to offenses related to child trafficking. He wants these classes of crimes to be elevated to non-bailable offenses,” Nograles said in a Palace press release.

The Cabinet secretary added that “Trafficking of children destroys the future of our young citizens. It’s our duty to protect them through stronger laws.”

At the opening of the 18th Congress, several lawmakers filed bills seeking amendments to RA 10364.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Bill 27 that seeks to reinstate the death penalty and includes qualified trafficking among the crimes that merit the imposition of death. Sen. Ramon Revilla, Jr. also filed Senate Bill No. 45, proposing stiffer penalties for  child abuse, exploitation and discrimination, amending Republic Act 7610.

In the House of Representatives, House Bill 137 was filed by Rep. Geraldine Roman, House Bill 3020 by Rep. Wilter Wee Palma II, House Bill 1239 by Rep. Micaela Violago and House Bill Rep. 3632 by Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr.

Under the existing law, violators face 15 years of imprisonment and fines of P500,000 to P1 million.

“The Palace sees the urgent need to increase the penalties, both jail time and fines to be paid, even further. Aside from the deterrent effect of these higher penalties, we need to get the message across that government is dead serious in addressing the human trafficking issue, particularly with respect to children and vulnerable groups,” Nograles said. (