On 7 August 2009, the body of Finardo Cabilao was found in his residence in Malaysia. He appears to have been tortured and bludgeoned to death. The circumstances of his death indicate that he was targeted because of his work against human traffickers.
During his appointment as the Social Welfare Attaché to the Embassy of the Philippines in Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Cabilao worked tirelessly on behalf of Filipino victims of trafficking. He also played an important role in developing and advocating for the adoption of the recent ASEAN Guidelines for the Protection of Trafficked Children. As a result of his work combating trafficking, which included testifying against them in legal proceedings in Malaysia, Mr. Cabilao received death threats from traffickers – death threats that ultimately appear to have been acted upon.
We, the undersigned organizations, wish to express our sadness, shock and grave concern at the news of the death of Mr. Cabilao.
Firstly, we extend our deep condolences to the family of Mr. Finardo Cabilao, especially to his wife and two children. We hope that Mr. Cabilao’s legacy of bringing safety and hope to countless victims of trafficking may bring them comfort even as we recognize that no legacy can begin to replace the loss of a husband, father, son and brother.
Secondly, we call upon the Filipino government to recognize the legacy of Mr. Cabilao by ensuring that its next Social Welfare Attaché continues the work of Mr. Cabilao and that the embassy and government redouble their assistance to all Filipino victims of trafficking, both in Malaysia and upon return to the Philippines.
Thirdly, we demand that the Malaysian government promptly and thoroughly investigate the murder of Mr. Cabilao and make every effort to identify, arrest and prosecute his murderers. We remind the Malaysian government that the international community has found its efforts to combat trafficking wanting and that the flagrant murder of Mr. Cabilao is a direct result of the sense of impunity that human traffickers have enjoyed for too long in Malaysia. We believe that the commitment of the Malaysian government to opposing human trafficking is in doubt as long as it allows the murderers of Mr. Cabilao remain at large.
Fourthly, we reiterate the need for all governments in the region to continue working individually and collectively to combat human trafficking and to ensure that all those who join the opposition to human trafficking are provided with support and protection.
This statement was written by members of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and is endorsed by civil society including The Micah Mandate.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is a civil society network committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific Region. The network includes members who work directly with victims of trafficking in Asia.