Our Own Modern Day Hero
July 28, 2011
Left - Atty. Pajarito gives her response on having to receive the award. Right - Atty. Pajarito with U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

Left – Atty. Pajarito gives her response on having to receive the award. Right – Atty. Pajarito with U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

Perhaps it is not a scene that we all want to live with everyday, but it’s lurking and it’s not hushed. According to the U. S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report in 2007, 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. 80% of human trafficking involves sexual labor and exploitation, and 19% accounts for victims of forced or bonded labor. Without a doubt, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, along with the arms trade, second only to the criminal activities involving drugs and narcotics. So much so, human trafficking is the modern slavery and it’s definitely not acceptable in any shape or form.

She’s a woman. But she’s a hero – a lawyer.

Atty. Darlene R. Pajarito is a graduate of Bachelor of Laws at the Western Mindanao State University’s College of Law. Having been admitted in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in 2004, she secured the Philippines’ first sex trafficking conviction in 2005 and the first labor trafficking conviction in 2011.

She was awarded with the 2011 Hero Acting to End Modern Day Slavery Award at Washington D.C. and was also a recipient of the State Department’s Ten Trafficking in Person (TIP) Hero Award. She was the only Filipino who was recognized as TIP Hero in America. And last July 29 of this year she was commended by President Benigno Aquino III at the MalacaƱang Palace, Manila for her contributions which brought great distinction to the country’s plight against human trafficking.

“It can mean two things. One, this is an indication that there are so many human trafficking activities in Zamboanga City. Second thing, it can mean that we are doing something about it,” Atty. Pajarito pointed out the implications as to why the city is in the public eye of combating human trafficking cases. By all means, the local and national local government and even ordinary citizens’ advocacies can be counted in. The assistant city prosecutor added that on their own, those little ways could mean a lot in the course of strengthening the fight against defiling and corrupting of human souls and exploiting the poor and the defenseless of our society.

With an impressive track record as a lawyer, she says that the fight against human trafficking is a continuing challenge for her. “There’s a lot of frustrations. But as you go along the way, there’s a lot of good that comes out from people that are in it. The commitment that you see in them. The quest for justice, the commitments of the partners [different agencies and individuals]… it keeps you going on,” she shared.

With her commitment to this cause and together with NGOs and the different government agencies, the Philippines moved to Tier Two status, removing the immediate threat of sanctions but indicates that work is needed to fully meet the standards on human trafficking. Atty. Pajarito rejuvenated the Regional Interagency Council Against Trafficking and it later paved the way for the creation of the Sea-Based and Air-Based Trafficking Task Forces. She was also chosen to lead the Region IX Anti-Trafficking Task Force last year.

After several international and local recognitions, Atty. Pajarito once again, was presented with a Presidential Citation by Western Mindanao State University’s President, Dr. Grace J. Rebollos. The event was held at Sapphire Ballroom, Grand Astoria Hotel last July 25 during the 107th Foundation Day Celebration luncheon of the university. (Ekeena O. Lim, WMSU-PAO)