PAMPANGA, PHILIPPINES – Two traffickers arrested earlier this year have been convicted for selling girls on the streets of a city notorious for sex tourism. The trial lasted eight months—amazingly fast for a trial in the Philippines, and IJM's fastest case ever in the country.
"These convictions demonstrate a real change in the way the justice system is working," according to IJM Philippines National Director Andrey Sawchenko. He noted that this is the first conviction IJM's office in Pampanga has achieved since it opened just last year: "Most cases that we help prosecute take about four years. This court in Pampanga delivered justice after eight months."
Andrey says he hopes the trend to hold traffickers accountable will continue. Only one other trafficker has ever been convicted in Pampanga, despite the fact that the province is a notorious destination for sex tourists and the streets and bars are teeming with young women being exploited in the industry.
The same judge who rendered that first-ever sex trafficking conviction was also responsible for declaring the two traffickers guilty in IJM's case on November 15, 2013. This judge attended a conference on human trafficking last year and has since demonstrated a serious commitment to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes.
While the convictions show that the justice system can work—and send a message to others selling girls for sex in the community—they also send an important message to the survivors. On the night these two traffickers were arrested, five minors and another trafficked woman were rescued. They have been part of IJM's aftercare program ever since.
Five of the survivors chose to testify in court, and all of them continue to receive visits from IJM social workers. One girl has just started back to high school, on a path toward a very different future.