Individuals that work for the protection of human rights and against violations like human trafficking, face grave risks to their lives in countries where such violations go unchecked and unpunished.

The brutal silencing of an advocate against human trafficking this month in Malaysia has caused an outcry among colleagues and non-government organizations that are calling for justice and action to end these crimes.

Finardo Cabilao, Social Welfare Attache at the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur assisted Filipina victims of human trafficking, coordinating and joining in raid and rescue operations with the Malaysian police; arranging for shelter and protection of victims upon rescue; assisting to access legal assistance and aiding processes for repatriation.

He was a leading actor in helping the many Filipino women and youth who, promised good jobs in Malaysia, too often only end up in brothels and forced into exploitative situations. His work became a threat to the lucrative interests of traffickers and for this reason; he was violently tortured then murdered in his apartment in Kuala Lumpur.

Finardo worked to combat human trafficking as a social worker allied with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.  In this capacity his mandate was to “provide social protection and promote the rights and welfare of the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities”, a duty which he performed with dedication only to pay with his life.

The silencing of this colleague demonstrates the dangers that human rights defenders, in countries of this region and worldwide, face as they speak out and act against such violations. While the criminals engaged in human trafficking and behind the death of Finardo Cabilao may consider his murder as a message of warning to other human rights advocates, they will learn that our resolve to prevent and end human trafficking is ever stronger.

Thus we also call on the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines to take action and the necessary steps to create the conditions and legal guarantees that will protect the people under their jurisdictions that are working to combat human rights crimes safeguarding them from threats and other violations and seeking and delivering justice in the event of acts against their lives.

Often, the very arms of government are not only undermining the investigation of such human rights abuses, but are actively thwarting the efforts of other groups to pursue justice for victims of these abuses.

We the organizations and individuals dedicated and working for human rights add our voice in calling for accountability and justice for this crime and also for the action required to end impunity for crimes of human trafficking.

Asia Acts
ECPAT International
Action for Economic Reforms