Zamboanga lawyer earns spot in US State Department’s list of anti-human trafficking heroes
(SPOT.ph) Zamboanga City assistant state prosecutor Darlene Pajarito was chosen as one of the US State Department's 10 anti-trafficking heroes for 2011, reports GMA News. The list is comprised of individuals from around the world "who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking." Pajarito received her award from US state minister Hillary Clinton on June 27 in Washington DC.
Pajarito was selected for securing more trafficking-related convictions in Zamboanga compared to any other Philippine city. She was responsible for the country’s first sex trafficking conviction (2005) and first labor trafficking conviction (2011). "Ms. Pajarito has accomplished all this while juggling an average caseload of more than 300 other criminal cases in a country where criminal trials last an average of six years in the overburdened and backlogged judiciary," said the US State Department, describing the lawyer as one of the cause's staunchest advocates.
Cecilia Oebanda, president of anti-human trafficking organization Visayan Forum (VF), described the prosecutor's unrelenting determination. "Pajarito never lets a case go if she knows she has enough evidence to prosecute it," said Oebanda in Filipino. She recounted an incident last year where Pajarito figured in a bombing incident at the provincial airport before a VF meeting. Despite sustaining injuries from the blast, Pajarito still showed up for the scheduled meeting.
Pajarito's awarding came at the same time the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report was released, reports Interaksyon. In the report, the Philippines progressed to Tier Two status, removing the immediate threat of sanctions and saving the country from being cut off from US aid.