MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Late this July, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III hosted a special ceremony to celebrate strides forward in the fight against trafficking in the Philippines and honor leaders who have contributed to the ongoing transformation – including IJM.
The celebration was spurred by the U.S. State Department's decision to move the Philippines up a tier in its annual report, reflecting the government's commitment to address the massive trafficking problem in the country.
Over the past year, the government of the Philippines has worked closely with the U.S. Embassy and anti-trafficking organizations like IJM to make profound reforms, including putting trafficking cases on a fast track to unclog a massive backlog in the country's justice system.
The ceremony placed special emphasis on the groundbreaking work of Prosecutor Darlene Pajirto, who achieved the first trafficking conviction in the Philippines in 2005, and with whom IJM has worked closely on many cases.
IJM continues to partner with the Philippine Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigations and the Philippine National Police in Manila and Cebu to rescue individual trafficking victims. As a result of this partnership, IJM was honored by the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Welfare and Development during the ceremony for its role in helping the government of the Philippines address the scourge of trafficking in the nation. In addition to providing holistic rehabilitation for the survivors, IJM prosecutes the perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable under the strong anti-trafficking laws that exist. In the first half of 2011, there have been 13 convictions in IJM-supported anti-trafficking cases in the Philippines – a marked improvement from only six the entire year before.
"Over the past decade that IJM has done anti-trafficking casework in the Philippines, we have identified the broken parts of the public justice system – the police, courts and social services – where victims and cases have fallen through the cracks," shares IJM Philippines National Director Andrey Sawchenko. "We have also worked alongside amazing people of good will and high capacity in these same agencies. The increased political will we have witnessed from the Aquino administration sends a clear message to traffickers that there are serious consequences for human trafficking in the Philippines."