shield arrow-simple-alt-top arrow-simple-alt-left arrow-simple-alt-right arrow-simple-alt-bottom facebook instagram linkedin medium pinterest rss search-alt twitter video-play arrow-long-right arrow-long-left arrow-long-top arrow-long-bottom arrow-simple-right arrow-simple-left arrow-simple-bottom readio arrow-simple-top speaker-down plus minus cloud hb pin camera globe cart rotate star edit arrow-top arrow-right arrow-left arrow-bottom check search close square speaker-up speaker-mute return play pause love

A Shift in the Philippines Mean Swift Justice for Survivors Like Carolina

CEBU, THE PHILIPPINES – October 18, 2016
Two traffickers were convicted last week in a case that started three years ago. Ten young women—including girls as young as 15—were rescued from a bar where they had been sold to customers for sex.
A photo taken on the night of the rescue operation in 2013
"Convictions can be medals symbolizing success in our cases. But the transformed lives of the clients we serve are the real trophies of our work. The privilege to witness these things unfold before our eyes makes us grateful each day to be a part of this mission,” said the lead IJM lawyer, full of gratitude after the case ended October 10.
The trial had dragged since the rescue operation in July 2013, with hearings routinely cancelled or postponed. Early on, IJM suggested that the defendants enter a plea bargain as a way to speed up the process and ensure swift justice for the survivors.
Plea bargains are not widely used in the Philippines. One advantage when the criminal pleads guilty, often in exchange for a lesser sentence, is that the survivors do not need to testify. In this case, three survivors did in fact take the witness stand and spoke of the awful nightmare they had lived through before the defendants decided to plead guilty earlier this month.
"In the Philippines, plea bargaining is traditionally viewed as a legal strategy of last resort. With nearly 30 convictions through plea bargaining in since 2015, IJM Cebu is igniting a cultural shift to normalize plea bargaining as a legal strategy to secure speedy justice for our clients, protect them from further trauma, and conserve judicial resources. It should be explored and availed as a first resort, not the last resort,” explained the IJM lawyer.
"I’m glad the case is over. I can move on to another journey in my life,” said one survivor after the final hearing concluded with 15-year prison sentences and fines for both traffickers. Several of the young women have already graduated from IJM’s aftercare program, having completed counselling and gotten connected to job training that will help them live independently.
Two of the survivors, including a 19-year-old named Carolina,* are still living at aftercare shelters. "[Carolina] is very self-aware and she’s learned so many coping skills through her participation in Trauma Informed Care sessions,” said her IJM social worker. "She’s grown and developed a lot. I’m so proud of her.”
Carolina was only 15 years old when rescued, but she bravely decided to participate in the trial and speak out against the abuser. She is now focused on her classes at the shelter, and she hopes to go into social work or music ministry when she graduates. She says she is committed to growing in her faith and serves as the shelter’s "prayer leader.”
Her social worker reflected on the growth in Carolina’s life in the three years since she was rescued—it’s "unimaginable.” Her faith has strengthened Carolina and inspired her social worker, who added, "She told me that after spending a lot of time in prayer and reflecting on God’s promises, she chose to trust in the Lord and forgive her abuser.”
*A pseudonym

You might also be interested in…

see more

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay connected to the work! Sign up to get updates straight to your inbox.

Media Contact

We're here to answer your questions. Please fill out the form below and someone from our team will follow up with you soon.

Make an Impact

Your skills, talents, and ideas are a force for change. From birthday parties to polar dips, your fundraising campaign can stop the violence.

Learn More

Thank you for signing up to learn more about starting a fundraiser. We will be in touch soon!

In the meantime, please take a look at our free guide: 25 Tips for the Novice Fundraiser.

Need Help?

Need more information?
We're here to help.
Contact us at