March 1, 2021
LAPU-LAPU CITY, CEBU – Plea bargaining proved to be an effective strategy to secure justice for victims of online sexual exploitation as 4 women pleaded guilty for their crimes in 2 separate cases in Lapu-Lapu City this Wednesday. These four convictions came as an early celebration for Cebu as it occurred a day before the nation celebrated the EDSA Revolution Holiday.
The first conviction that day stemmed from a sting operation conducted by the Women and Children Protection Center Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) on March 21, 2019. The said unit was able to rescue 2 boys and 7 girls and arrest 3 female suspects who were all related to the 9 minors removed from the scene. The suspects were charged with Qualified trafficking in Persons under RA 10364 and violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 under RA 10175.
Justice came swiftly as these same suspects pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the crimes of Attempted Trafficking and Immoral Doctrines, Obscene Publications and Indecent shows at the Regional Trial Court Branch 70 in Lapu-Lapu City. The presiding judge Hon. Christine Muga-Abad sentenced each of the 3 suspects to the penalty of 15 years imprisonment and to pay P600,000 in fines, P100,000 in exemplary damages and P500,000 in moral damages.
Prosecutor in charge of the case, Public Prosecutor Antonio Aseniero expressed his delight in the outcome of the case and had this to say: “Raising a child takes a village; at the same time, protecting a child takes a community. This is a testament for the cooperation with law enforcement, the justice system, and Non-Government Organizations such as International Justice Mission.”
The second conviction originated from a case build up conducted by the WCPC-VFU on February 26, 2018. During this time, a certain Annie* was caught transmitting several child sexual exploitation materials . She offered her 3-year-old son and a 5-year-old girl for online sexual exploitation in exchange for money. Upon implementation of a search warrant, police officers were able to seize several money transfer receipts from foreign sources from Annie’s location.
This same Annie* pleaded guilty before RTC Branch 70 in Lapu-Lapu to the other offenses of possession of child pornography, attempted trafficking and obscene publication and indecent shows. The same judge sentenced Annie* to serve 23 years, 1 month and 1 day in prison and to pay a fine of Php 600,000.00 The court also directed Annie to pay Php 500,000.00 in moral damages and Php 100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Atty. Lucille Dejito, Director of IJM Cebu Field Office, reacting to the turn-around of events said that: “Every trafficker restrained and convicted meant protection of other vulnerable children who would have been abused if perpetrators continue to exploit children with impunity. The conviction in these two cases is bringing protection to more children against online sexual exploitation.”
As a final remark to these Cebu convictions Regional Prosecutor Fernando K. Gubalane, Head of the Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking in Region 7 expresses his heartfelt gratitude to all that took part in the conclusion of these cases by saying (that): “As to these Trafficking In Person cases, just want to express my thanks to those who bring justice to the victims.
Online sexual exploitation of children is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 9208 (as amended by RA 10364), which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million. Typical OSEC offenses also violate RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) and RA 9775 (Anti‐Child Pornography Act of 2009). Both have penalties equivalent to 20 to 40 years imprisonment. ###
Note to Editors:
- Annie – a pseudonym to protect the identity of the survivors
- IJM is withholding the name of the perpetrator to protect the children’s identities
- The Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Luxembourg Guidelines, prescribes the use of the term “child sexual abuse material” or “child sexual exploitation material” instead of “child pornography”, except when referencing the name of statute. Sexualized material that depicts or otherwise represents children is a representation, and a form, of child sexual abuse and should not be described as “pornography.”
About International Justice Mission:
IJM is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. www.IJM.org | osec.ijm.org/news