Sitting in a lively café, Ben, Destiny Rescue’s country manager in the Philippines, passionately described the key attributes his team of rescue agents possess. Ben’s commitment to excellence and integrity requires agents to have an impressive resume paired with exceptional character.
Being a rescue agent in the Philippines requires a vast array of skills. All agents undergo a rigorous application and training process to ensure they can fulfil the role’s demands.
Although they all met the challenging requirements, the rescue agents are diverse and bring various strengths and weaknesses to the team. “You don’t have to be good at everything,” Ben said. Working together, agents are stronger and ultimately more effective in rescuing children.
“A LOT OF
As the conversation continued, Ben placed high value on the heart of his agents. First and foremost, he said an agent is “someone who has a lot of empathy for the victims.” Agents need to understand how and why children get caught up in sexual exploitation.
Agents go undercover in bars and on the streets to assist law enforcement by gathering evidence and case building. In these places, girls might call out to passersby, act flirty and even escalate situations physically. Empathy allows agents to see the whole person, not just the mask presented to customers. Viewing girls’ exploitation situations like a doctor views their patients helps agents maintain a professional mindset throughout rescue operations. “You remind yourself where you are, why you’re there, why they’re there [and] what your goal is,” Ben said.
As he went on to discuss integrity and Christian values, he explained these characteristics must be paired with strong undercover skills. “Obviously, you can’t go into these situations looking and acting like a pastor or a youth leader,” added Ben. “You really have to do a lot of acting.”
Agents are encouraged and held accountable through their teammates, significant others and continuously rolling footage of their operations. “We’ve always got hidden cameras. We’ve got eyes on us all the time,” Ben shared.
When asked about the screening process for agents, Ben answered, “There are a lot of scrutinies that are involved.” In addition to due diligence such as government background checks and personal references, our teams research each potential agent’s past to verify their character and honesty.
It can even be as deep as speaking to their neighbours and going way back and finding their high school classmates… it can get pretty intense,” Ben shared.
All agents in the Philippines receive training in self-defence and social awareness techniques. They are prepared to protect themselves and de-escalate situations as necessary. “We don’t encourage any of our operatives to engage in any altercation or fighting. If anything, you back away,” Ben said.
Besides the basic training, there is no physical requirement. In fact, a militant stance and vocabulary could hinder an operation and make pimps or rescue targets suspicious the agent is a cop. “The whole point of us being out there in the streets, and in the bars, in the establishments, really, is to be a shadow, not to be out there in the limelight to attract attention,” Ben emphasised.
For rescue agents, most of the heavy lifting happens in the mind. They must be in-tune with their undercover personas to ensure they don’t raise the suspicions of pimps and trigger an unpredictable line of questioning. Ben runs role-playing workshops for his team to learn and practice natural responses to prevent agents from “umming and erring and freezing” when operating undercover.
International agents must recalibrate their thinking and adjust to local laws and culture. “The Philippines has its own system and its own laws that we need to follow and its own culture that we need to, as agents, understand first to be effective,” Ben said. He noted that the team goes through annual refresher training on these topics.
This was a struggle for Ben in his early days as an agent. “I spent a lot of time being frustrated at how things worked or didn’t work here,” he said. While his intentions were noble, he faced constant discouragement before he adjusted and “things became a lot smoother.”
Working this way is effective, resulting in strong relationships with multiple law enforcement agencies and, in turn, more rescues.
Being a rescue agent requires dedication. “It’s more than just a contract for a year or two. It’s more than just a nine to five job,” Ben stated. Agents must have honourable character and the ability to learn and work as a team.
With this solid foundation, agents in the Philippines are stepping into the darkness of sex trafficking and bringing children into the light.
Names have been changed to protect identities
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