MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – It was a busy Saturday night when officers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and investigators from IJM Manila entered a bustling village in Laoag City, population center about 480 kilometers north of IJM’s Manila field office. The team made their way up and down the bar-lined streets, the hour nearing midnight as they arrived at their final destination – a disco bar, serving as a front for prostitution.
IJM had begun its investigation on the case just days before, after receiving a desperate plea for help from a couple on behalf of their teenage daughter. Their daughter had been lured to Laoag City with an offer of work in a canteen, but she was instead entrapped by traffickers at the bar. The family was familiar to IJM staff – their daughter had already been served by IJM’s Manila team. Having witnessed firsthand IJM Manila’s dedication to their clients, her parents once again trusted the staff to bring their daughter to safety.
Arriving at the bar, the IJM team and local authorities prepared to bring rescue to this girl, and several other trafficking victims they expected to find with her. The signal was given, the operation moved forward – and on December 12, 2009, six trafficking victims were rescued from the bar, while three bar employees were placed under arrest for their roles in the crimes.
It was very clear to me that we needed to get to where this young girl was and do everything within our power to rescue her.
— Carmela Andal-Castro
IJM Manila Director
“We lost no time in mobilizing our team,” explained IJM Manila Director Mia Andal-Castro. “I knew that the [bar’s location] was way beyond our target area. However, it was very clear to me that we needed to get to where this young girl was and do everything within our power to rescue her. Having been a client of ours in our sexual abuse program, it was heartbreaking to know that she had fallen prey to the deceitful means of traffickers in her community.”
The State Prosecutor will now press formal charges against those arrested for violations of anti-trafficking laws and the prostitution of minors. IJM lawyers will embark on the challenging road of processing the case and assisting with the prosecution of the accused perpetrators despite their physical distance from the crime scene.
The girl for whom the operation was conducted has been reunited with her parents and is undergoing counseling at an aftercare home with the help of her IJM social worker. The other rescued minors remain in Laoag in the safety and care of an aftercare home in that area.