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TASKED WITH HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASES

Inquirer Read-Along presents cop who’s also a social worker

/ 05:05 AM September 17, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — As a police investigator handling human trafficking cases among society’s marginalized, Chief Master Sgt. Marsha Agustin first had to read and tell stories to victims, especially the young.

“This is an approach that we have to employ to establish rapport with the victims and eventually earn their trust and confidence. If we go straight to the complaint, their traumatic memories may come back,” Agustin said.

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Agustin, a Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino this year, was one of the readers during Saturday’s Inquirer Read-Along session celebrating patriotism. The others were her fellow Metrobank awardees, read-along ambassador and child actress Angelica Ulip and veteran storyteller Dyali Justo.

Endeavoring to help her earn the victims’ trust, she sometimes told them stories or gave them books and coloring materials. This was just one of the approaches under the interviewing techinique that she introduced in the police force called the “Social Worker-Police Investigative Technique in Handling Cases Involving Women and Children Victims.”

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This method is guided by the view that police investigators should not only prioritize the conviction of offenders but also look after the welfare and protection of the victims.

“As a police investigator, my role is to gather information and get affidavit. And because I’m [also] a social worker, I also have to address their emotional and psychological needs. I have to make them feel that I am their confidant and that I empathize with them,” Agustin said regarding her work at the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police.

She recalled that the youngest victim brought to her watch was a month-old baby. Today’s human trafficking knows no age and gender, she said.

The toughest part of Agustin’s job is how to convince young victims to file a case against their own family and relatives, who are the perpetrators in some cases.

“I have to let the child victim understand that we have to give him or her justice, and that we will be there for the victim until he or she testifies in trial,” she said.

From 2015 to July 2019, there were 343 human trafficking victims rescued in 97 entrapment operations. Some 133 local and foreign offenders were arrested and 28 were convicted, according to Agustin.

Bomb disposal expert

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In the read-along session, Agustin read Rene Villanueva’s “Patrolman Ngiyaw,” which tells of a cat police officer who is committed to his job without expecting any reward.

She read this story to almost 50 kids and they were joined by Master Sgt. Ramil Caporas of the Philippine Army, also a Metrobank awardee.

Caporas served as the lead explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) expert during the five-month siege of Marawi City that started in May 2017.

During the battle, Caporas improvised an explosive called “binatana,” which was used to crack open building walls, so assaulting troops can better find their targets.

His team also led the recovery and disposal of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

When he became team supervisor and  EOD technician of the EOD Battalion of the Army Support Command, he conducted lectures and training on IED recognition as part of his advocacy of safety awareness.

“There is a need to educate people on explosive devices and how to detect them. Laymen only know of bombs, but today there are suicide bombers,” Caporas said.

He also conducts seminars on bomb threat management to military, police, civilians, business and religious groups, students and communities.

Historian

Another Metrobank awardee who was a guest reader in the read-along session was World War II historian and University of the Philippines professor Ricardo Jose. He read “Si Langgam at si Tipaklong,” written by Virgilio Almario and illustrated by Renato Gamos.

Jose was the only Filipino in a team that worked on the first Japanese-led research on Japan’s occupation of the Philippines titled “The Philippines Under Japan,” which was published in the 1990s. He later translated the book to English.

“This was an academic investigation based on primary sources, documentary archives and interviews with the Japanese [who took part in the occupation]. And its focus was more on food, rice, mining, which were not the usual topics [about the] Japanese occupation,” Jose said.

He also pointed out that, “Even though historians may focus on one period, we should still have a broad understanding of other events. If I specialize in [the] Japanese occupation, I should also read about what happened in other countries so I can compare and find common threads.”

Read-along ambassador Ulip read “Basurero ang Tatay Ko” by Krissie Zamora-Martinez and illustrated by Randy Valiente, while professional storyteller Justo read “Makinang, Makinang” by Genaro Gojo Cruz and illustrated by Conrad Raquel.

Saturday’s read-along session, hosted by Inquirer researcher Ana Roa, was held in cooperation with Metrobank Foundation’s Laarni Luna and GMA Artist Center.

Now in its 12th year, Inquirer Read-Along aims to foster love of reading among children. It has featured more than 400 celebrities, leaders, educators and other role models as storytellers. —KATHLEEN DE VILLA

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TAGS: Inquirer Read-Along, Marsha Agustin, police investigator, Ramil Caporas, Ricardo Jose
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