PAMPANGA, THE PHILIPPINES – Two sex trafficking cases ended with convictions today in the Philippines. Both underscore a government serious about stopping this rampant crime.
As one judge wrote in her decision: “While the government continues to gather strength to build a strong foundation against trafficking, let this Decision be its voice saying: stop trafficking in persons now.”
The conviction handed down today came after a relatively swift trial: IJM helped the regional anti-trafficking police unit rescue ten young women in January of this year. Three suspects were arrested, including the woman who worked as the “mamasan” and was convicted this week. The mamasan recruited girls to work at the bar and negotiated with the customers who would pay to exploit them. (One other suspect was acquitted, and the third is currently at-large.)
Four of the girls rescued in January were minors, and all ten were offered aftercare services from IJM. Many of the survivors have now returned to their families but are still receiving trauma therapy from IJM social workers. A few have completed vocational training programs or re-enrolled in high school. One young woman just completed her Alternative Learning System exam just last week (similar to a GED in the U.S.).
In the second case, a floor manager and cashier were convicted under the anti-trafficking law. Three years ago, a young woman named Rhonda* escaped from their bar and found help. Rhonda had been trafficked from another island in the Philippines; she had been promised a job in Singapore, but instead ended up in this abusive bar. The information she gave authorities led to the arrest of the two traffickers convicted on December 16.
“[Rhonda] didn’t have to pursue this case against the bar, because she was already out,” explains the IJM lawyer who has worked on this case and gotten to know this young woman. She adds that while it may have been easier to leave Pampanga and never look back, Rhonda “didn’t allow this, because she wanted to obtain justice.”