What began as a routine request from the Philippine National Police (PNP) turned into an investigation full of twists and turns.
After repeatedly proving their worth, the Destiny Rescue team in the Philippines has become integral to the PNP’s efforts to thwart human trafficking in the region. It wasn’t surprising but absolutely an honor when the PNP contacted our local team to ask for support on a new case. The police had intel that a trafficker was renting out young girls for sex and they wanted our help taking him down. For this case, the police asked our operatives for logistical support for the raid.
Officers worked quickly. In the past, agents and police may spend weeks or even months building a case and meticulously gathering intelligence. But this time, officers completed their undercover surveillance and were ready to initiate the raid in just a few days. Undercover officers, pretending to be sex buyers, arranged to meet the pimp at a predesignated location, ostensibly to pay for the girls and take them elsewhere for sex.
On a sunny day precisely one week after joining the case, we picked up the pimp on the side of the road. He’d brought six victims to sell, four of whom were minors. The trafficker, confident and amiable, chatted like an overeager host as he prepared to exploit the children. Once an undercover officer passed marked bills to the trafficker, the “entrapment” phase of the operation was complete; police now had enough evidence to prosecute.
The officer let the facade fall away, quickly arresting the perpetrator as more police and caseworkers swooped in. Once the perpetrator realized what was happening, he tried to wash his hands of the whole situation. He threw the marked bills on the car’s floor and said, “I don’t want the money anymore! They’re yours, let me go!”
The arresting officer, of course, laughed off that offer and cuffed the child trafficker.
During this first phase of the operation, quickly securing the criminal takes priority over everything else. Because officers move aggressively to prevent the perpetrator from grabbing a weapon, trying to escape or harming the victims, the moment’s intensity can be unnerving. Many victims mistakenly believe they’re the ones in trouble.
As soon as the officers secured the suspect, social workers swooped in to soothe the victims, assuring them they were being rescued, not arrested.
The joint operation was executed flawlessly, a testament to the professionalism and experience of this team. The pimp was taken into custody without a fight.
Trafficker exposes his accomplice
That’s when things got interesting. As the 19-year-old pimp was loaded into a police van, he completely folded. In a tearful confession, he revealed that he wasn’t the only trafficker selling kids in this operation.
One of our agents onsite said it was like a scene from a movie: the pimp gave the name of his accomplice and even the location of their base of operations! The blubbering criminal confessed that the apartment was nearby and more victims were inside.
Once our agents and officers learned that there might be more victims at the apartment, they had a decision to make. Typically, after receiving such a tip, they would vet the information by spending days surveilling the site and tracking the movements of those within.
But word of this raid would get back to the accomplice quickly—he’d likely take the victims and flee to another location, prolonging their abuse or even escaping altogether.
Our agents and officers decided they couldn’t wait. They quickly formulated a plan to investigate the new site.
Little did the kids on the other side of this door know that when the door opened, their lives would quickly change
Three more rescued
Because they were working with credible but unverified information, they decided only to send a small team to the site. Without a full picture of what they might find in the apartment, the team would need to be careful in approaching it.
As police pulled into the rural subdivision, a single officer and one of our agents approached the apartment. Using a key supplied by the perpetrator, they unlocked the door and cautiously stepped inside.
After finding no one in the first room, the men pressed further into the apartment. They found the pimp and three underage boys hiding in the apartment’s bedroom. They’d been frightened by the unexpected entry and hoped the intruders would leave without discovering them.
And on the bed, our team found the final victim: a young girl, sleeping soundly, completely unaware that her life was about to change.
The officers quickly called for a social worker to assist the new group of victims. After a COVID test at a rural health unit, the groups were brought together at a PNP station where caseworkers gathered information and performed medical and forensics tests.
The survivor’s testimonies revealed even more surprises. After confidently stating that she was 15, one girl turned out to be only 12. Two of the boys found in the apartment were not being sold but endured sexual abuse from one of the traffickers. The third underaged boy was just there to pick up his girlfriend, the final victim we found sleeping on the bed.
The final unexpected turn came during the inquest when one of the boys, reluctant to enter the shelter, quietly slipped away undetected! Fortunately, we were able to help police quickly locate him a couple of days later and returned him to social workers. He and the other children entered shelters where they would receive care and trauma rehabilitation.
Impromptu rescues are extremely rare in a department where meticulous planning and careful surveillance ensure safe, successful operations. But because of their quick thinking and practiced coordination, these professionals were ready to make flexible, decisive adjustments that saved children and put traffickers behind bars.
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