The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) welcomed the announcement of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in establishing its presence in the Province of Pampanga. Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, Undersecretary-in-Charge of IACAT, called attention to this undertaking of IJM as a means to strengthen the government’s ties with the private sector in its mandate to fight off the problem of human trafficking.
IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression armed with lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems effectively protect the poor. On January 2, 2012, the IJM was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as an NGO representative of the children’s sector in IACAT, with a term of three (3) years to serve as a part of the anti-human trafficking body.
“We are confident that the success of our partnership with IJM in other provinces, more specifically in the Province of Cebu, will be replicated in the Central Luzon region with Pampanga,” added Salazar. Pampanga is suspected as a haven for the operation of syndicates involved in human trafficking, child pornography and prostitution.
In line with this presence in the province, with the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Central Luzon Women’s Desk, IJM rescued thirty-seven (37) female workers from the Coyote Ugly Bar in Fields Avenue, Barangay Balibago in Angeles City on April 02, 2012. Among the rescued victims, fourteen (14) were found to be minors based on the birth certificates, dental aging examination and the victim’s own account. The victims were reportedly recruited as waitresses from Tacloban City, Tarlac City, Samar, and other parts of the country.
IACAT recognizes the vital role of the private sector and non-government organizations in dealing with individuals and entities in violation of the anti-human trafficking law. Salazar further stated that “the IJM initiative will go a long way in helping put an end to this form of evil in that part of the country.”