Different offenses
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 punishes four different offenses: (1) Acts of Trafficking in Persons under Section 4; (2) Acts that Promote Trafficking in Persons under section 5; (3) Violation of the Confidentiality Rule or the right to privacy of the Trafficked Person and the Accused under Section 7; and (4) Use of Trafficked Persons or buying and engaging trafficked persons for prostitution, under Section 11. These are different offenses with different punishments, so the charges must be specified clearly in the Information. This is explained in this case.

This is the case of Rina and Domeng who were both accused of violating the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act. In one and the same Information filed in Court, Rina was charged with recruiting and transporting for prostitution, two minor girls and another already of legal age, while Domeng was charged with managing and operating a room in his apartment to be used for prostitution in conspiracy with Rina.

For several months already, the three girls otherwise called “Bar Girls” have been under the control and supervision of Rina as commercial sex workers. They were introduced to Rina by other sex workers who acted as pimp, providing them with male customers. Rina earns P50 for every male customer who pays P300 to the girls and P200 for every customer who pays P700. She regularly furnishes the bar girls 5 customers per week and would bring them to a motel or to Domeng’s house where they are given a room at the rate of P100 per 30 minutes use.

Acting on a tip from a human rights organization, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Women’s Complaint Division (CIDG-WCCD) conducted further surveillance to confirm the veracity of the report. Then said agency conceptualized an entrapment operation together with the representatives of the human rights organization and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). PO2 Santos and an agent of the organization was designated to act as poseur-customers who were given marked money to be utilized in the entrapment operation consisting of one P500 bill and (15) P100 bills. Then they went to a place where they were approached by Rina who offered the three girls for P300 each and a room for P100 each. That night, Rina informed the girls of their customers and brought them at the designated meeting place. After the agents handed over the marked money to Rina as payment for the services of the girls, the agents announced that it was a raid as the back-up operatives rushed towards them, arrested Rina and Domeng and confiscated the marked money. Thereafter, they were charged with violation of RA 9208.

At the trial, the prosecution presented the three girls who confirmed their ordeal in the hands of Rina and Domeng as above narrated. One of the agents also testified on the entrapment operation. For their defense Rina denied the charge and the story of the prosecution witnesses. She said she was at the church on said day when she was arrested. Domeng on the other hand claimed that he was sleeping in his house when he saw one of the girls and Rina together with three men who asked him if they could rent his room because it was the girl’s birthday. But he said that he refused, so the three male persons forced him to accept the marked money.

After trial, the Regional Trial Court found Rina guilty of Qualified Trafficking in Persons under Section 4(a,e) and Section 6 (a) in so far as the two minors are concerned, and Domeng also guilty of qualified Trafficking in Persons under Section 5(a) and Section 6. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P2 million each. This decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, which also awarded moral and exemplary damages.

In the meantime, while the case is still under review by the Supreme Court, Rina already died inside the Correctional Institution for Women due to multiple organ failure, secondary to cancer. So the SC ruled that her criminal and civil liability were already extinguished pursuant to Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code and to existing jurisprudence on the effect of said death.

With respect to the decision against Domeng, the SC affirmed the factual findings of the RTC and the CA. The SC declared that the testimonies of the three girls were direct, straightforward and corroborative of each other while the arresting officer detailed the conduct of the entrapment operation. The SC said that Domeng knowingly leased a room in his house for prostitution. The positive identification and testimonies of the Prosecution witnesses greatly outweigh Domeng’s bare denial and alibi.

But the SC ruled that the RTC and the CA erred in finding Domeng guilty of Qualified Trafficking of Persons under Section 5(a) in relation to Section 6 of RA 9208. The SC said that Section 5 (a) punishes Acts that Promote Trafficking in Persons and not Acts of Trafficking in Persons which is punishable under Section 4 of RA 9208. Section 4 refers to those acts which directly involve trafficking in persons, such as recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, receiving, buying, offering, selling, or trading persons to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude, or debt bondage. Section 5 on the other hand refers to those acts that promote or facilitate any of the aforementioned acts of Trafficking in Persons. Furthermore, the offenses punished under Section 5 cannot be qualified by Section 6 as what the latter seeks to qualify is the act of trafficking and not the promotion of trafficking in persons. So Domeng is guilty of acts that promote trafficking in persons and sentenced to imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of P500,000. He should also pay each of the three girls P100,000 and P50,000 as moral damages and exemplary damages with legal interest of 6% from finality of judgment until full payment (People vs. Reyes and Roxas, G.R. 227704, April 10, 2019)

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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