MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Last week, IJM and government officials conducted an undercover operation in a bar in Manila's red-light district, rescuing nine girls and women who were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
"As we ate a meal together, I could see light coming back into their eyes. There is deep pain, but there were moments even of laughter. The girls started to believe that maybe someone had heard their silent cries for help."
– IJM Social Worker
Police agents from the National Bureau of Investigation, Anti Human Trafficking Division, secured the premises and arrested seven suspects who were immediately taken into custody. IJM staff and social workers from the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development accompanied the girls and women from the bar to a secure location so they could give testimonies of the abuse they had endured. Bravely, they shared details of the routine rape they faced working at the bar, and IJM staff provided crisis care to help them adjust to their new reality of freedom.
"At first, the girls who had been abused in the bar were not sure who they should trust – they had been fed so many lies in addition to all of the abuse," explained an IJM social worker who was present on the night of rescue. She continued, "But as we ate a meal together, I could see light coming back into their eyes. There is deep pain, but there were moments even of laughter. The girls started to believe that maybe someone had heard their silent cries for help."
The pimps and managers who were arrested on the night of the rescue operation, along with the bar owner and administrators, have all been charged with qualified trafficking – a crime which carries life imprisonment under the strong anti-trafficking law in the Philippines. IJM lawyers will continue to work with the public prosecutor to ensure justice is secured. The girls and women are now beginning to heal in a safe and loving government aftercare home.