PAMPANGA, THE PHILIPPINES — Four girls are now safe from being exploited in the local commercial sex trade, rescued by police only hours after an IJM training session. During the workshop on May 4, officers from the Philippine National Police discussed three rescue operations from earlier this year in which 26 victims were rescued from sex trafficking.
Later that evening, they would work together to rescue more girls still waiting for freedom.
How a Training Turned into a Rescue
At the training, IJM lawyers talked about the Philippines’ anti-trafficking law and spoke with officers about how to best interview rescued victims in order to pinpoint evidence of trafficking. As the workshop ended, a team of police and IJM staff drove to a bar in an area of the city known for its bars and nightclubs advertising girls girls girls.
It is also a region where the local law enforcement has grown substantially, and traffickers and bar owners have had to develop elaborate ways to cover up the underage age girls who are trafficked and sold to customers for sex.
The girls and young women working for the bar they targeted on May 4 lived in small quarters inside the establishment—10 girls to one room. They were given free lodging and food, providing an incentive for these girls to stay and work.
For their work, the girls were expected to entertain the customers in the bar. Men could come to the bar and pay a flat rate for a VIP Room which included: room rental, food, hard liquor, and sex from the girls they chose.
This method of charging for VIP rooms as a package hid the actual payment for sex, making the methods difficult to uncover for police officers. However, the officers had been trained for difficult cases like this one.
Four Teens are Now Free
The rescue team discovered four 17-year-old girls inside the seedy establishment masquerading as a bar and grille. The Philippine National Police gathered enough evidence to arrest two suspects, who have now been charged with trafficking of minors.
Then, with the help of IJM social workers and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, officers interviewed the survivors and recorded their statements—the process in which they had been trained earlier that day.
The interviews were so effective in this operation that the team finished two hours ahead of schedule—one of the fastest operations IJM Pampanga has had yet. They were also able to gather enough evidence that, for the first time, the Department of Labor and Employment decided to initiate the closure of the bar without a letter or petition from IJM. The bar is set to close this month.
The survivors were taken to shelters where IJM social workers are currently following up with them on their road to recovery.