TAGUIG City Deputy Prosecutor David Michael Go received the Special Achievement Award from the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) for his fight against online child exploitation.
The award was presented at an online ceremony on October 21, 2021, attended by IAP members from around the world.
âWe all know that being a prosecutor is the most enjoyable, the most satisfying and the most conscientious profession one can practice. A profession in the service of justice â, declared IAP General Secretary Han Moraal at the start of the ceremony.
âWe know that being a prosecutor can also mean hardship, facing up close to the most terrible crimes of this society. Nonetheless, society asks us to only do our job. It is for this dedication, this ordeal of the prosecution profession that the International Association of Prosecutors has created its rewards program, âhe added.
The IAP is a non-governmental organization of prosecutors. Represented by more than 170 countries, IAP aims to raise standards for prosecutors around the world.
âFor his work in the fight against online child abuse, the IAP presents a Special Achievement Award to David Michael Go of the Philippine Ministry of Justice … Child welfare is at the forefront of the mind of the attorney Go when handling affairs. which often involves foreign evidence and evidence that is often traumatic for its victims, âIAP said as he presented the award to Go.
âAmid the merriment and celebration, allow me to take this opportunity to say that my country’s struggle to end modern slavery, the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking continues. These crimes are alive and well in my country, âsaid Go, accepting the award.
âWhile efforts are being made to end it, the only way to make a difference is for all justice actors in different parts of the world to come together to raise awareness and put in place safeguards to ensure that no one is sexually exploited or exploited for any reason. May this serve as an inspiration so that we are not powerless to put an end to these crimes, âhe added.
With the Philippines at the forefront of developing innovations to combat child trafficking by creating child sexual exploitation material (CSEM), Philippine prosecutors are playing a crucial role in the fight against child sexual exploitation by line.
By accepting the award, Go recognized the work of International Justice Mission Philippines (IJM), an organization focused on supporting the Philippine government to end online sexual exploitation of children.
âI would like to thank the International Justice Mission Philippines for their invaluable assistance in all the cases that I have dealt with or that I manage,â he said.
âAt IJM, we commend Attorney Go and our Department of Justice for their unwavering determination to protect our children and maintain public safety,â said attorney Sam Inocencio, regional vice president for global programs at IJM against the online sexual exploitation of children, in response to the price of Go.
âAmong the notable accomplishments of Prosecutor Go is the pursuit of prosecution strategies for the protection of children. While the work of justice holds criminals accountable, it is also about protecting the interests and dignity of survivors, and the work of Prosecutor Go is a demonstration of this. His ideas, his experience and his leadership have certainly raised the bar for excellence and public service, âadded Inocencio.
âIt is our privilege to work with Attorney Go and our Department of Justice. The work of Prosecutor Go is a testament to the standards of prosecution in the Philippines and reflects the excellence of our prosecutors, especially those who are at the forefront of protecting child survivors of online sexual exploitation, âadded the lawyer Lisa Guevara-Garcia, director of the national prosecution at the International Justice Mission.
Protect the well-being of surviving children
In a case reported by foreign law enforcement, a 13-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl and an eight-year-old girl were abused to create the CSEM. Go’s efforts resulted in a conviction in 2020. Amid a global pandemic and amid varying levels of lockdown and community quarantine across the country, the accused was sentenced to 40 years in prison for breaking the country’s child pornography law.
Go’s workplace places a strong emphasis on preventing further survivor trauma. He successfully prosecuted two accused local traffickers, one of whom was linked to the victims. A four year old boy and two two and nine year old girls have been offered to offenders in foreign countries. Two of these victims were the children of one of the suspects, while the third victim was the cousin of the same suspect.
To protect the psychological safety of the children, Go allowed the accused to plead for a lesser offense. This route saved the children from possible additional trauma associated with appearing on the witness stand.
The sister of the third victim in the aforementioned case said: “Buti nga po at umamin na lang yung pinsan namin para hindi na aalalahanin pa ni ading [younger sister] namin yung nangyari sa kanya. Naiiyak nga po ako kapag binabalikan ko yung araw na pinalabas sa TV yung nangyari sa kapatid ko … Pakisabi na lang po sa abogado na naghahawak dati sa kanya na okay na po yung ading namin sa probinsya [It is good that our cousin confessed, so that my sister would not have to recount what happened to her. It brings me to tears whenever I recall the day that the incident involving my sister was reported on TV…Please let my sister’s former lawyer know that she is doing okay in the province]. “
In recent years, the Philippine government has made significant progress in prosecuting cases involving the sexual exploitation of children online. The work has resulted in an increase in the number of victim-focused investigations, prosecutions and convictions in the area of ââonline sexual exploitation. Improved law enforcement capacities and resources have led to 118 rescue operations, in which 84 perpetrators have been arrested and 373 victims brought to safety over the past four years.
Prosecutors have implemented victim-focused prosecutions to protect very young victims of online sexual exploitation.
With more than half of victims being 12 years of age or younger, the use of VIDI (Video In-Depth Interviews) protects survivors from further contact with the perpetrator. The plea agreements protected survivors from having to testify in court, thus protecting them from possible further trauma during criminal proceedings.
As a result of these interventions, 91 of the 127 convictions over the past four years were obtained through plea negotiations, protecting more than 100 survivors from the risks and challenges of a full trial.
Ruby (a pseudonym) was rescued from captivity and online sexual exploitation by Philippine authorities and is now a leading survivor of the IJM.
âProtecting survivors is as important as rescuing them,â says Ruby. âEspecially those where the perpetrator is a family member or a relative … it is very important to place survivors in a place where they can feel safe, cared for and protected. We also need to make sure the child or survivor knows and understands why they need to be there. She must know that she has been abused, and there is this law to protect them and will punish their perpetrators. There will also be times when the survivor finds it difficult to cooperate and testify against her abusers because she is afraid to confront them again. “
Go’s work continues to protect the well-being of survivors in the process of seeking justice.
Elevation of the banner of prosecutors
The Justice Department’s Interagency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) commended Go in a statement:
âWe at Iacat congratulate Deputy City Attorney David Michael Go of the Taguig City Attorney’s Office for his recognition in the International Association of Prosecutors Awards 2021. His unwavering leadership in judicial reform and the rule of law through innovations Child-prosecution strategies, such as advocacy negotiation and maximizing the use of digital evidence instead of relying heavily on victim testimony, affirm the focus of ‘Iacat towards lawsuits that protect the rights and well-being of the child from further trauma. His continued research and application of these strategies to the prosecution of human trafficking (TIP), particularly the case of online child sexual exploitation is commendable and deserves to be replicated. This award also confirms the work done in the courtrooms to eradicate this horrific crime and is a testament to the standards of excellence in the administration of justice in the Philippines. Thank you for raising the banner of Philippine prosecutors on the international stage.
Go was also named Taguig City’s Top Prosecutor in 2018 and 2020, in recognition of his accomplishments in the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office in Metro Manila. (RP)