MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Last week, a bar where minors had been trafficked and sold for sex was permanently closed – underscoring the Philippines’ commitment to fight sex trafficking. Officers from the Philippines National Bureau of Investigations (NBI), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), local police and IJM staff were present for the closing.
After conducting undercover investigations, IJM assisted NBI officers with an operation in August 2011, to rescue four underage girls who had been trafficked to the bar for sexual exploitation. Suspected pimps and managers were arrested on the night of the operation, and IJM lawyers are developing a legal case against the suspected traffickers.
Upon further government investigation, authorities issued a petition to permanently close the bar. IJM Manila Field Office Director, Jojo Lacanilao, looked on as police officers chained the door closed. He explained the significance of the event: "Permanently closing this brothel that fronted as a bar reflects a serious commitment to end trafficking in the Philippines. And the heavy lock on that door is a clear message: Traffickers have no business in our community."
"Permanently closing this brothel that fronted as a bar reflects a serious commitment to end trafficking in the Philippines. And the heavy lock on that door is a clear message: Traffickers have no business in our community."
– IJM Manila Field Office Director
The young women rescued in the anti-trafficking operation are living in an aftercare home, and IJM social workers will continue to provide trauma-focused counseling and support them as they rebuild lives of freedom.
Another IJM Manila lawyer who is working on the legal case against the traffickers said, “It is great to see people from difference sectors – from the DOLE officials to the NBI agents down to the [local] barangay council members – coming alongside IJM to close such a dark place, whose walls had been like a silent witness to abuse and oppression of women, especially of minors.” He added, “It is certainly my hope that the closure would be an important step in our pursuit of justice, healing and restoration.”