Hopeless man hands tied together with chain

Philippines’ Justice Department eyes use of AI to help fight human trafficking

The Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed its interest in experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) as part of measures to combat human trafficking.

The DOJ said it would rely on AI to profile individuals traveling in and out of the Southeast Asian country. The attempts at leveraging AI will focus on spotting vulnerable individuals at risk of being trafficked against their will.

“We’ll try to see if we can use artificial intelligence to vet many people who want to leave, especially those prone to human trafficking,” said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla. “I hope they understand that it is part of our culture to protect our fellow Filipinos from being trafficked and becoming modern-day slaves.”

Critics have poked holes in the plan over concerns that subjecting passengers to AI checks may increase the burden faced by Filipino travelers. In the DOJ’s defense, Remulla urged travelers to arrive earlier at the country’s airport amid attempts of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to minimize inconveniences.

Remulla added that in addition to AI, the country would bolster the strength of immigration staff in the coming months to tackle congestion issues. He confirmed the planned increase of immigration counters to solve the winding queues at the country’s airports.

In 2022, Parliament members raised alarm over the rising numbers of trafficking cases involving Filipinos, with a Chinese syndicate pulling the strings. Lured by the prospects of high-paying jobs, trafficked Filipinos are forced to carry out digital assets scams under the threat of violence.

“These Chinese mafias are making the Philippines an incubator of scammers,” remarked Senator Risa Hontiveros. “There are many Filipinos in Myanmar who need our help. Like those who were rescued, they were forced to cling to the syndicate’s promises because of hardships.

Relying on AI raises new concerns

While the DOJ is embracing AI with open arms, regulators worldwide are proceeding with caution over the perceived risks associated with AI usage. Authorities in Europe, fuelled by existing privacy and data protection rules, are seeking a ban on using “real-time” remote biometric identification systems.

Although details are sparse, it appears the DOJ will rely on real-time identification systems that critics claim could trigger AI-fuelled discrimination and bias. Critics say that the absence of a proper regulatory framework for AI in the Philippines may blight the noble attempts of the Justice Department.

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