News & Insights

Committed to the Cause: Cardno’s Frontline Against Trafficking in Persons

Trafficking in persons is a heinous crime that exploits the most vulnerable in society and strips marginalized people of their rights. Today, on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (TIP), we acknowledge the pervasiveness of TIP, and the inspiring difference our team is making to regional counter-trafficking efforts.

The 2020 theme for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – Committed To The Cause: Working On The Frontline To End Human Trafficking – focuses on the first responders to human trafficking. These are the people who work across different sectors identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of traffickers.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important. Particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognised.

Cardno's International Development teams have been committed to the cause against TIP for two decades. Through Australia's flagship ASEAN-Australia Counter Trafficking (ASEAN-ACT) Program, we are actively supporting frontline workers from different justice agencies and victim support organisations across the ASEAN region; strengthening their ability to successfully and justly identify and punish traffickers while realising the rights of victims of trafficking.

Darlene Pajarito

A key member of the ASEAN-ACT team, Justice Systems Director Darlene Pajarito, is one of these frontline workers. She is contributing to regional discourse, research, and advocacy to help eliminate trafficking in persons.

Darlene's unique insights and knowledge of TIP come from both her time as a lawyer and prosecutor in the Philippines and an additional 15 years of experience working in the trafficking and human rights sector.

Having been handed her first TIP case as a lawyer in 2005, Darlene committed herself to the cause of anti-trafficking and has diligently pursued prosecutorial efforts ever since.

Her 2005 case was the first ever sex trafficking conviction won in the Philippines. It remains to be the speediest TIP case to have gone to trial, taking only four months from the time the two accused were arrested up to conviction.

By 2011, she had secured convictions against six traffickers – more convictions than any other city in the Philippines. Darlene was honoured in 2011 with the prestigious title of a ‘TIP Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery’ in recognition of her impact and efforts.

With ASEAN-ACT Darlene recently attended the 33rd Annual Emory Enhancement Workshop on Social Justice and Global Equity and Development, where she discussed how traffickers are using technology to facilitate TIP.

'The internet allows trafficking to become borderless, and traffickers more elusive, if not invisible or anonymous,' says Darlene.

Darlene discussed countermeasures to online trafficking, including law enforcement using entrapment techniques; pretending to be online shoppers in order to catch would-be traffickers. Another method is the Sweetie program, a computer-generated child used to lure online sexual predators into providing personally-identifiable information, so that this information may then be reported to law enforcement agencies.

In addition to tangible countermeasures, Darlene presented on ASEAN-ACT's role in supporting the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons (ACTIP), which recognises that TIP: constitutes a violation of human rights; is an offence to the dignity of human beings, and; that cooperation is necessary for the elimination of safe havens for perpetrators, and for the effective protection of victims of trafficking.

Noting the importance of partnerships, Darlene explored areas of cooperation between attendees, including through awareness campaigns; research on migrant workers and their safe migration; capacity building in the justice sector; the importance of sharing best practices, and; strengthening international legal cooperation and referral mechanisms.

'We must innovate and better understand the opportunities the Fourth industrial Revolution (the digital age) presents to combat human trafficking,' concluded Darlene.

Team Leader for ASEAN-ACT, Erin Anderson, says ‘Darlene's experience and work brings a whole new level of engagement and expertise to the program as she navigates the path for us to adapt our responses and support to the changing needs of the justice agencies. The activities of traffickers are constantly evolving and we need to keep up, and Darlene is assisting the ASEAN region with that.’

Darlene's unparalleled success of pursuing and holding traffickers accountable in courts is an immense asset to ASEAN-ACT's counter-trafficking efforts.

For further information contact:

Kate McCubbin
Program Director - ASEAN-ACT