Friends, ladies and gentlemen:
The year was 1966.
I was told by friends and mentors that many important events happened during that year.
I was planning to ask His Excellency, the Vice President if he remembers the important things that happened in 1966. I was, of course, quick to remember that both of them may not have been born yet at that time.
So, I had to do my own research. One of the things I found out was that a popular comedy film was made that year. The producer was a person by the name of Blake Edwards, later to be knighted by the Queen of England.
Here’s the interesting sidelight: the title of the film was based on a question… yes, a question … that Sir Edwards’ son asked him.
And, this was the question. His son asked him one day: “What did you do in the war, daddy?”
The question became a film.
The film became a hit.
It struck me that there was a good reason for the film to rake it in the box office. I was told that, at that time, many fathers had to answer that question posed by many children. What did you do in the war, daddy?
The “war” in that question referred to the Second World War. And, I was told, that many daddies at that time – who did not see action in that war – had to create or fabricate tales of personal heroism just to make sure that the children who asked the question were proud of them.
What did you do in the war, daddy?
Friends, ladies and gentlemen: I realized that you and I face the prospects of being asked the same question of being asked the same question today in this day and age.
The world continues to be at war. And, among these wars is the one we fight – the war against human trafficking.
You and I may not be able to directly answer the question, what did you do IN the war, daddy?
But tonight, you and I are confident that there is one question we can answer with conviction. That question is - what did we do FOR the war.
And, tonight, I have two tasks to perform.
First is to say “thank you” to the Vice President, to the Secretaries and heads of member-agencies of the IACAT, and to our partners from both the government and the private sectors. Thank you for the trust, the confidence, the support and for standing side by side with us as we DO something for this war.
Second is to outline to you the additional things that are on the drawing board.
It is said that there are three things vital to winning a war.
First, a plan.
Second, a set of tactics.
And third, skilled fighters on the ground.
We have skilled fighters on the ground and let me assure everyone that they continue to sharpen themselves. They include our law enforcement agencies, our social workers, and our prosecutors.
Just a few days ago, I joined the prosecutors of Region VII in their summit. The event was both inspiring and informative. The event also made sure that our partners in that region took home added skills and enhanced learning. They emerged from that event ever more ready to win the war.
Again, as far as fighters on the ground are concerned, we have the best and they keep getting better.
Next – a plan.
If there is one thing the Inter-agency Council demonstrates best, that would be the ability to collaborate.
The Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2016 is the product of such collaboration.
This Strategic Plan showcases the most valuable lessons we have learned from our campaign. It shows the depth of our understanding of the nature and forms of human trafficking; the crucial role of law enforcement tools against its perpetrators; and the power of our partnership and collaboration.
The Plan also highlight our shared conviction that human dignity, especially the rights and welfare of trafficking victims, are at the core of all efforts against human trafficking.
This Strategic Plan acknowledges the importance of the role of media and participation of our citizens in preventing and eradicating human trafficking. It underscores the need to fully mobilize all stakeholders and partners and to enhance the ability of our agencies that investigate, prosecute, and try the perpetrators of trafficking.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Plan is in place.
And so, here we are. Here we are, confident that we have excellent fighting forces on the ground and a clear strategy based on learning and experience and produced by hands, hearts and minds working in collaboration.
That leaves one last necessary element: effective tactics against our nemeses.
Today, we are launching two manuals which reflect these tactics.
One, the manual on asset forfeiture on trafficking cases which has already been published; and
two, the manual on trafficking for forced labor which is now in the development stage.
With the manual on asset forfeiture, we are tightening the noose on those who profit from the misery wrought by human trafficking on its victims. The second manual sends signals that we aim to make the business of forced labor and slavery less and less viable.
Both manuals underscore a sad truth about the menace we fight: that there are shadowy characters in the world that see the misery of others, the death of dreams, and the rape of human dignity as sources of revenue and wealth. The tactic is to make sure our nemeses get the message loud and clear. And what is the message? I quote from the foreword of the manual on asset forfeiture written by Secretary de Lima herself.
She wrote, and I quote:
“When our legislators crafted the law creating the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT), they sent the signal to our nemeses that this country will close ranks and form a formidable phalanx against the perpetrators of this form of modern-day evil. They got the message, loud and clear: Crime does not pay. Criminals do.”
Strategy and tactics.
Excellent fighting forces on the ground.
We have them.
And so, when we are asked the question, “what did you do in the war”, our answer is ready.
And this is the answer: you and I … we made sure that the indispensable elements to winning the war… to victory … were in place.
I thank our leaders for the trust, the inspiration and the support.
And I thank you all for making our collaborative efforts one major success.
[Delivered at the IACAT Thanksgiving Dinner on December 12, 2012]