Philippine official charged in U.S. human trafficking case

A case filed by the State Department accuses Philippine politician Rafael Marquez with trafficking women in Los Angeles. He has also been charged in the Philippines. The two cases mark a major escalation of…

Philippine official charged in U.S. human trafficking case

A case filed by the State Department accuses Philippine politician Rafael Marquez with trafficking women in Los Angeles. He has also been charged in the Philippines.

The two cases mark a major escalation of the administration’s assault on Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of extrajudicial violence and human rights violations.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump and Mr. Duterte accepted a joint press conference that appeared to be mostly supportive of each other’s agendas.

Mr. Marquez, a former defense minister and mayor of the Philippines city of Bacolod, was elected in May 2017 as the nominee of the ruling Philippine party in the provincial senate. In June, Mr. Marquez resigned from the party, arguing that he did not have the necessary “influence” to serve as a senator.

The State Department has also filed charges against Mr. Marquez’s wife, Deborah, for the alleged role she played in procuring young women for human trafficking. Ms. Marquez had overseen the recruitment, training and placement of young women between the ages of 12 and 20 in Los Angeles.

In late November, the Philippines enacted the Restitution of Certain Government Property Act. Among other things, the legislation allows the government to confiscate property, assets, and bank accounts belonging to people involved in human trafficking. If convicted, Mr. Marquez could face a sentence of up to 40 years in prison and a $2.6 million fine.

The Philippine Human Rights Commission launched a domestic investigation into Mr. Marquez last year. The commission’s lawyer, Haruna Bucintol, said in a statement that the investigation included a second investigation into Mr. Marquez’s wife and concluded that she had conspired with Mr. Marquez to promote a scheme of human trafficking.

Mr. Marquez confirmed the charges with the AFP news agency, denying the allegations. He said, “I will not be cowed by those who want to censor, freeze my assets, and bring me before a court of law for my political or private actions.”

The City Council of Los Angeles also launched an investigation on January 17 into the role of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti in authorizing the use of city property for the Duterte festivities. Garcetti has expressed support for Mr. Duterte, calling him “honest and compassionate.”

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