TIP advocates hail Zambo’s innovations PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 17:35

Anti-human trafficking advocates who were in the city recently to attend the 3-day Exchange Program on trafficking in persons (TIP) efforts, expressed admiration to Zamboanga City’s constant implementation of innovations and strategies which are recognized as good governance practices all over the country.

Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) Deputy Executive Director Alex Pacis and Manila Prosecutor Jedrik Ng of the Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Trafficking (IACAT)-Department of Justice said Zamboanga has been proven to be very effective in terms of TIP efforts given the rescue of victims and arrests and convictions of people engaged in the lucrative business of anti-trafficking.

“I am really impressed by the city and the people here lalung-lalo na mga anti-trafficking task force members.  It’s mainly because Zamboanga always shows new things, innovations on how to fight human trafficking and I think this culture of innovation comes from the culture of the city of really blending cultures and blending initiaives”, Pacis said as he cited Mayor Celso Lobregat for providing the strong and effective leadership that brings people from different cultures, languages and walks of life together and act as one.

He continued: “You have this spirit of bringing people from different cultures, languages, different cultures and walks of life and they feel at home here. That’s the passion/ innovation of this local government”.

Pacis, who represented VFF president Cecil Oebanda during the 3-day activity held at La Vista del Mar said Zamboanga always gives new innovations that include the 6 convictions of traffickers—the highest in the entire country, the LGU-initiated creation of anti-trafficking task force and the sea-based anti-trafficking task force, formation of passenger assistance and help desk and lately the recognition of Zamboanga Assistant Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito as one of the 10 TIP heroes in the world.

He said other anti-trafficking task forces from all over the country have a lot to learn from the Zamboanga’s experiences and innovations that would help improve efforts in other parts of the country.

The VFF official admitted that more things need to be done to fight trafficking “although here in Zamboanga you have done a lot but at the national level we still have to make a dent on the problem”.

“I think bringing the anti-trafficking task forces here will give them a better picture of what can be done and they can work together as network of partners working from Batanes to Jolo” Pacis said adding that “we have to spread out this initiative so that there will be no place for traffickers to hide.

Prosecutor Ng for his part said the 6 convictions obtained by Zamboanga are proofs that the programs are effectively carried out and implemented here.

“It takes a lot of strong political will on the part of the local government unit to push these programs, to coordinate and really strong leadership so that everyone is in the same phase in this anti-trafficking campaign”, Ng said.

He said the 3-day exchange program will be a sharing of views and best practices, what the different anti-trafficking task forces did in their respective regions and what made them successful in arresting and prosecuting traffickers.

Prosecutor Ng added that the different anti-trafficking task forces have a lot to learn from Zamboanga’s good practices.

The Exchange Program for Anti-Trafficking Task Forces held at the La Vista del Mar from Sept. 14-16 was organized by the VFF in partnership with the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (SBATTF) under Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito and with support from the USAID. The participants were prosecutors, law enforcers, social workers and other anti-trafficking champions from Manila, Angeles, Surigao, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Davao, Cebu, Tawi-tawi and Zamboanga City.

The event was also graced by Alistair Baskey, Philippine Desk Officer in Washington, USA and Matthew Fullerton of the Public Affairs Office, US Embassy.

Zamboanga was chosen as the venue for the 3-day gathering in view of its good governance practices in the anti-trafficking drive. It has the distinction of having the first conviction under the Anti-Trafficking law that saved the country from being downgraded further from Tier 2 watch list ranking in 2005. Zamboanga holds the highest number of convictions in the country, now at 6.

Zamboanga Prosecutor Pajarito, who was recently cited by the US State Department as one of the world’s 10 heroes in the fight against trafficking; Prosecutor Ng and VFF’s Pacis spearheaded the conduct of the seminar. — Sheila Covarrubias