IJM Cebu: Six-Year Trial Ends with Justice for Survivors of Sex Trafficking

Both traffickers were convicted under the Philippines’ strong anti-trafficking law and sentenced to life in prison.
Both traffickers were convicted under the Philippines’ strong anti-trafficking law and sentenced to life in prison.

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – Two traffickers were convicted on Friday, December 13, in a small, make-shift courtroom in a nondescript government building—a stand-in for the main courthouse which was damaged in a massive earthquake in Cebu in October.

It was the first judgment in a sex trafficking case since that earthquake and the subsequent Typhoon Haiyan that has devastated the surrounding islands. It was also the end of a six-year legal battle.

In 2007, IJM helped rescue young women from Cebu's oldest red-light district known for commercial sexual exploitation of children. It was one of IJM's earliest sting operations in Cebu, and it was the first time police interviewed the survivors at a safe location other than the police station—an environment that is unfamiliar and can be intimidating. Now it is standard practice in Cebu for trafficking survivors to be taken immediately to HerSpace, a separate space where young women go on the night they are rescued to receive crisis care and to share their stories.

These young women spent time at a government shelter for survivors of sex trafficking, and two decided to participate in the trial against the traffickers as witnesses. Now they are supporting themselves and living independently.

Both traffickers were convicted under the Philippines' strong anti-trafficking law and sentenced to life in prison. IJM's National Director of the Philippines, Andrey Sawchenko, commended the court for "delivering a verdict in line with the evidence," and said the court's decision "has recognized the suffering of the victims."