“Breakdown the barriers to access justice!” This was the battle cry of advocates during this year’s successful opening ceremony of the International Day Against Human Trafficking celebration on December 7 at Plaza Pershing, this city. The event carried the theme, Justice and Protection for Victims of Child Trafficking.
In her message during the opening program, Dr. Marcelina Carpizo underscored the real meaning of justice for victims of human trafficking which goes beyond the conviction of traffickers. According to her, it also encompasses the provision of necessary services such as counseling, trauma healing, shelter, food, clothing, education, family and community reintegration. In other words, it points towards the rebuilding of lives which have been shattered by this heinous crime. Dr. Carpizo is Director of the Western Mindanao State for Peace and Development (WMSU-CPD) and chair of Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), national and the city chapters. She was also recently elected vice-chair of the Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs) which is composed of seven member-countries in Southeast Asia.
In Zamboanga City, the celebration will last for a week from December 7 to 12. The opening program was attended by committed partners in the campaign against human trafficking which include the Women’s and Children’s Protection Desk of the Philippine National Police; WMSU Center for Peace and Development; Katilingban Para sa Kalambuan (KKI) Tanglaw Buhay Center; KKI – Akay Kalinga; KKI – Urban Poor, Cawa-Cawa; Department of Social Work and Development, Region IX; Zamboanga City State College of Marine Sciences and Technology; Peace Advocates Zamboanga; Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) city office; Department of Foreign Affairs; Human Development and Employment Services (HDES); WMSU College of Social Sciences and Psychology Society; WMSU Hands of Goodwill Program Volunteers and Scholars; Visayan Forum; Philippine Center on Transnational Crime; Home for Women – DSWD; Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention Network (CAPIN); Kalinaw Homeowners Association; Katilingban Homeowners Association, Sinunuc; Mampang community; Office of the City Social Welfare and Development; Social Development Center; Integrated Resource Development for Tri-People; Holy Rosary Family Center – Child’s Fund, Pasobolong group; Bantay Bata 163; and the City Mayor’s Office, to name a few.
Other lined-up activities are: mobile theater in Divisoria Elementary School on December 8 and Lumayag Elementary School on December 9; mobile theater at the KKI housing project in the evening of December 9; guesting in a program of Radio Mindanao Network on December 10; fun run/walk at five o’clock in the morning of December 11 with assembly area in front of Garden Orchid Hotel along Camins Avenue; and thanksgiving mass at Fort Pillar at five o’clock in the afternoon of December 12 to be followed by a candle lighting ceremony in honor of traffick victims worldwide at six o’clock in the evening.
Zamboanga City holds the record of having had the first human trafficking conviction nationwide which was in 2005. Subsequent convictions were one each in 2007, 2008 and the latest was in August, this year. All of the convicted traffickers were operating under a syndicate except those convicted in 2008. To jail a trafficker is a gargantuan task. The protection rings that support the perpetrators include powers-that-be.
In his message, Hon. Celso L. Lobregat, city mayor, lauded those who are at the forefront of Zamboanga City’s campaign against trafficking, particularly the prosecutors led by Atty. Darlyn Pajarito, city fiscal and a staunch anti-trafficking advocate, for this feat. The Zamboanga campaign against trafficking in persons is hailed in the Southeast Asian community for its strong convergence of stakeholders that translated into conviction of traffickers.
When asked during a side interview what contributed to Zamboanga’s feat in terms of convictions, Atty. Pajarito revealed that the greatest factor is the synergy and deep commitment of the following pillars of justice in the city -law enforcement, prosecution, correctional system, and the community.
Atty. Pajarito lately went around the country as a resource person in a series of trainings on Anti- Trafficking in Persons spearheaded by Visayan Forum in collaboration with the US State Department. Other resource persons were a US Federal Prosecutor and a US Immigration, Custom and Enforcement Deputy Attache. She reported that participants, who were mostly judges, prosecutors, law enforcers, NGO workers and other stakeholders, were encouraged by her sharing of Zamboanga’s good practices.
Meanwhile, in her solidarity message, Mrs. Consejo Usman of the Department of Social Work and Development, Region IX, emphasized our obligation as a nation to protect the welfare of our children since the Philippines is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children.
Likewise, Mr. Daren Torres, vice-chair of PACT – Zamboanga City Chapter, in his closing remarks, urged everyone to uphold and protect the rights of our children. “They are our future”, he said. (Evelyn C. Luceño, PAO-WMSU)