Gov’t prosecutor champions cause for victims of human trafficking
ZAMBOANGA CITY – It is disheartening enough to be lured by false promises much more being driven to become a sex worker.
This was what government prosecutor Darlene Ramos Pajarito said in gist as she recounted the story of a young woman illegally recruitedbto work as domestic helper for Malaysia but ended up instead in one of the night bars there.
When she left the Philippines, the young woman had high hopes of financially helping her poor family one day.
But then, she ended up performing “five or more times sexual activities every night in that said bar.”
“She was so traumatized that she sought the help of one of her customers, an Englishman,” Pajarito said.
The foreigner decided to buy her from the bar only to make her his sexual partner, she added.
Pajarito said the young woman was forced to become a sexual partner because she could no longer endure her ordeal at the bar.
The woman sought permission from the Englishman to return to the Philippines and file charges against her recruiter and the owner of the night bar.
The names of the recruiter and the bar owner was being withheld, Pajarito said, because of a law that prohibits the identification of suspects in criminality.
In August 2010, the government scored a conviction but then the identities of those convicted remained withheld as they were also parties to some of the more than 50 other cases of human trafficking being tried here.
The woman is now married to a Filipino as she and the Englishman separated because of her desire to live in the Philippines.
Pajarito said another case she found so disheartening that she also decided to fight for it was that of two sisters, who were recruited and forced to work as slaves in Malaysia.
“The father of the girls had to sell his motorbike to raise fund so he could get back his daughters and they later filed a case,” she said.
The girls won against their recruiter and employer in February this year.
Pajarito said there were still hundreds of women and children falling victims to human trafficking.
In March, authorities rescued 82 women at the Zamboanga City International Airport here while they were about to board a plane to Malaysia.
“They were supposed to be picked up by a chartered plane from Malaysia, so imagine how highly syndicated the operation is,” she said.
Since becoming a public prosecutor in early 2000s, Pajarito has already been credited for saving 21 women and teenagers from human traffickers.
Her achievement did not pass the attention of the US State Department that it recently bestowed on her the Global Trafficking in Persons Hero Award.
“I am still trying to digest and try to sink into my brain this recognition and I don’t know why they picked me,” a giggling Pajarito who stands 5’2”, told the Philippine Inquirer on Saturday.
The 40-year old Zamboangueña lawyer, who is married to another lawyer, Ruben, has two daughters – one in college and the other in high school.
Pajarito admitted that being a government prosecutor was far from her mind.
Her previous work was with the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
It was her husband, who encouraged her to become a government prosecutor “because we lacked prosecutors.”
Pajarito said she balked at the idea because she did not like attending litigations.
But then, she became one.
In the early 2000s, she handled her first human trafficking case and won a favorable court decision in December 2005.
Since then, Pajarito scored one victory after another against suspected human traffickers.
She said her first encounter with victims of trafficking made her pursue the cases vigorously.
“I have become deeply touched and moved by their conditions, by their situations, their stories and their dreams of providing a good life to their families, sometimes I get so emotional,” she admitted.
Pajarito admitted the campaign against human trafficking, which she has been drawn to, changed the way she and her family lived.
“One day our Chief of Prosecutor [Ricardo]Cabaron informed me that he is detailing security for me, I guess there were threats,” she said.
Pajarito said she understood that “there’s a big syndicate involved here.”
Although she had not personally received threats, Pajarito said she trusted Cabaron’s judgement when he provided her security detail.
“I didn’t receive any threatening calls or messages but I know Sir Cabaron especially when he implements certain security [measures] for us,” Pajarito said.
Because of perceived threats to her safety and that of her family, Pajarito said she was taking extra precaution.
She recalled that prior to handling the trafficking cases, she and her daughters enjoyed taking the tricycle to school or to work.
“But now it’s a luxury. I remember once we took the trike, we were so happy and free but that is no longer applicable today,” Pajarito said.
Pajarito said the honor was not hers alone. She credited the team of prosecutors and other workers, including the victims themselves, for the success of the campaign against human trafficking.
“There are so many people who worked hard for this, the agents, the victims who volunteered to the government, the various agencies and other organizations that worked alongside with us to help innocent victims,” she said.
When she received the award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 29, Pajarito said she realized that “this would mean greater challenges.”
“Our team will have to maintain these three folds campaign, meaning earning the recognition worldwide, has to be a role model and third, intensify our advocacy,” she said.
Cabaron said Pajarito, whom he handpicked for the job, “did a great job.”
“She was able to remove our country from the second tier watchlist on human trafficking, in fact she’s the only one who earned that prestige, bringing honor not just to us, but to the whole nation,”
Pajarito said despite the risk of her job, she had no plans of stopping.
“We are [even] aiming to elevate our status to first tier after this,” she said.
“I told my team that it’s not an easy task but I am overwhelmed by their commitment, I told them they are my inspiration, but they told me they are only around because they see me as their inspiration too,” Pajarito said as she giggled again.
Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, Tawi-Tawi police chief, said they were hoping that “more convictions will be made.”
“A conviction is a deterrent to anybody who wanted to commit crime like trafficking in persons,” he said.
Vhema Antham one of the volunteer members of the anti-trafficking team, said, “We are very proud to have a very simple prosecutor, very helpful but very brave prosecutor, her honor is also ours too.”