US Charge’ d’ Affaires calls on Celso PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 February 2011 17:01

United States Charge’ d Affaires and Deputy chief of Mission Leslie Basset yesterday personally expressed appreciation to Mayor Celso Lobregat and the city government of Zamboanga for the relentless drive against human trafficking.

Ms. Basset paid a courtesy call on Mayor Lobregat yesterday afternoon in City Hall where the two officials tackled various issues including human trafficking, the peace talks and the US-Philippine relations among others. Accompanying the US official was Navy Capt. Robert Guisentine, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTP).

Lobregat said the anti-human trafficking campaign in Zamboanga was one of the numerous issues discussed during the 30-minute meeting with the US official who is thankful for the city’s unyielding efforts.

Recall that combined efforts of members of the local police, prosecutors and social workers in 2005 led to the first conviction in the country under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 or Republic Act 9208. The case, concluded in a record period of five months, caused the accused to suffer two life imprisonments. The conviction was handed down by Judge Jesus Carbon Jr. of Branch 16, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Zamboanga City on December 5, 2005. It was very coincidental that the decision was issued when US Ambassador at large John Miller, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US State Department was visiting Zamboanga, at a time when the Philippines was downgraded to Tier 2 watch list ranking.

Todate, Zamboanga continues to be in the forefront in the fight against human trafficking, as the Court recently convicted another human trafficker—the fourth for Zamboanga and 19th in the entire country. 

Mayor Lobregat said Ms. Basset’s visit to Zamboanga was primarily to meet with Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer.

From City Hall, the US official proceeded to the Crime Laboratory where the US government provided numerous equipment and trainings to improve capability.

The mayor and the US official also talked about the lack of witnesses to testify in the different crimes—which remains to be one of the major setbacks encountered in crime solution in the city including other parts of the region.

In terms of the peace process, the mayor informed the US official that Zamboanga city remains consistent in its stand not to be a member of any autonomous region or bangsamoro entity but stressed that the city hopes that the peace talks succeed. — Sheila Covarrubias