MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – In a complex operation that required precise planning and careful coordination, IJM helped rescue several girls who had been trafficked to four different bars on the same street. When IJM discovered that these bars were selling minors for sex, they passed along the information to the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Human Trafficking Division (NBI).
On October 24, 2013, NBI agents, IJM staff and government social workers split up into small teams to enter all four bars simultaneously. Social workers explained what was happening to the young women, who were at first afraid and unsure who to trust. The law enforcement agents worked quickly to make arrests and gather evidence—at one point, one of the suspects started running and an IJM staff member helped chase him down. Agents were able to arrest him and a dozen others who may face sex trafficking charges.
In one of the bars, customers could pay to exploit the girls in "VIP rooms." These rooms were really closet-sized crawl spaces, with exposed wooden beams and a dingy mattress covered with cartoon-character bedding on floor. Customers had to climb up a ladder to get to the "room," and once inside the tiny space there was not even room to stand up straight.
"The fact that these young girls were exploited by abusive traffickers is truly disheartening," said IJM Manila attorney Rosemarie Ayos-Lujero. She added that it was especially shocking to see that "the abuse happened inside filthy tiny rooms where crawling roaches were their sole witnesses."
IJM helped all of the underage girls settle into an aftercare home where they will receive crisis counseling and immediate care. IJM will work with each survivor to develop a plan that fits her needs and helps her rebuild a life of dignity and strength.