Human traffickers convicted in Real, Quezon

October 5, 2012 9:47 pm 

REAL, Quezon, Oct. 5 — Suzette and Gina (not their real names), 22 and 23 years old respectively, are both natives of Negros Occidental and dreamed of a greener pasture in the urban metropolis.

As provincial lasses, they thought life would be better in the city until a recruiter, Rona Pingcas, lured them to work as waitresses in a videoke bar.

The promise was a monthly salary of P3,500 which impelled Suzette to prod her cousin Gina into joining her to work for the said bar.

After the travel arrangements were firmed up, the recruiter transported them to Metro Manila and up to what they naively thought was Quezon City.

But the final destination to their workplace was a videoke bar in Real, a coastal town some 145 kilometers east of Manila, and located in Quezon province’s northern border with Rizal and Laguna provinces.

The promise of a better life never came as the two ended up as victims of human trafficking.

Once there, the victims were "forced and/or ordered to entertain male customers in the videoke bar every night from May 16 to May 24, 2009 for a fee or consideration in the form of lady's drinks," court records stated.

Suzette later narrated her ordeal when she chanced upon contacting her father through a cellphone she concealed under the sand for safekeeping. Her father told them to wait for rescue.

The local social welfare and development office and the Real local government dispatched a rescue team for the two teens from the videoke bar. Their case was immediately filed in January 2010.

Two years have since passed and the verdict was finally handed three weeks ago on September 13.

During the promulgation of the case, Infanta Regional Trial Court Judge Arnel C. Mesa found the three accused human traffickers "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" of the crime and ordered each of them to pay each victim a fine of P2 million in exemplary damages.

The court convicted for human trafficking Erick Rosas Morilla and Riza Doromal Pingcas, business owners-managers of the Erick Rose videoke bar in Real, Quezon and the latter's sister Rona Doromal Pingcas who served as their recruiter.

They were sentenced to 17 to 20 years imprisonment for violating Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. The court upheld the complainants’ testimonies that “they were forced to go out with their male customers and have sex with them for a fee.”

Court testimonies of the victims revealed that they were forced to have sex with their customers and were threatened to be buried alive if they refused. At one instance, the victims were also threatened that their bodies would be thrown at sea.

The law defines human trafficking as an illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor and this act sealed the fate of the three perpetrators to jail.

The country’s anti-human trafficking law adheres to the United Nations international protocol set to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The trafficking protocol as an international legal agreement came into force on December 25, 2003 after subsequently ratified by 117 countries and 137 parties of which the Philippines was a signatory.

It became the first global, legally binding instrument on human trafficking and set out an agreed definition of trafficking of persons to “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud and of deception.”

It also includes “the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Common cases of exploitation have since been reported to include, at the minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services.

But the law also encompasses slavery or practices similar to slavery and servitude even the removal of organs.

In the Real, Quezon case, the victims waived their right to recover moral damages, but the court still awarded the victims exemplary damages "by way of example or correction for the public good."

This recent human trafficking case is the fifth in the Calabarzon with three earlier convictions made in 2005 and 2008 in Batangas City and one in April this year in Lipa City.

According to Vida Subingsubing, information officer of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), their non-government organization assists victims of human trafficking whether children or adults.

She said PACT also facilitates assistance with both national and local government units and law enforcement agencies in this so-called convergence and national cooperation in investigating and prosecuting trafficking of persons.

Subing-subing said both Suzette and Gina are now reunited with their families through the help of the DSWD, Negros Occidental LGU and PACT Negros.

The two victims have been afforded mandatory services provided by law and the educational assistance, livelihood and capacity-building and training by TESDA.

The PACT information officer lauded the DSWD, Real, Quezon and Negros Occidental LGUs and the NGO’s PACT Quezon network in facilitating the rescue.

"Our thanks to those who helped us and never left our side. Our thanks to God who did not abandon us. We are happy for having our dignity intact despite what we went through," the two cried when the verdict was read.

Suzette particularly thanked the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office of Negros (Occidental), the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Real, Quezon and the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) that pooled their human and material resources to assist and protect them with full respect for their human rights.

She praised the enormous assistance in ensuring their regular attendance at hearings and in sustaining their participation in the case from 2010 to 2012. She also appealed to other trafficking victims not to be afraid to fight for what is right.

As she pinned hopes that such inhuman activities would stop, Gina sent word to her tormentors, the human traffickers, “you too have families, and children for whom you wish a better life. Think about this and stop what you are doing.” (PNA)

LAP/SEP/UTB

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