SC boosts stance vs. sex trafficking

By on January 26, 2015

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MANILA  — “Chicks mo dong?”

These words led to the arrest of a sex trafficker and rescue of two minors in Cebu City in 2008.

The same offender was convicted by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Subsequently, his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court (SC) in a 21-page ponencia by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen in “People v. Casio.”

The SC’s Second Division, through Leonen, upheld the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling which in turn had affirmed the conviction of accused Shirley A. Casio for violation of Republic Act No. 9208 or the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.”

The accused was caught recruiting two girls, including a 17-year-old minor “for the purpose of prostitution and sexual exploration, by acting as their procurer for different customers.”

The SC said that “(b)ased on the definition of trafficking in persons and the enumeration of acts of trafficking in persons, accused performed all the elements in the commission of the offense when she peddled AAA and BBB and offered their services to decoys….in exchange for money.”

It was not convinced by the defense that the victims had given their consent and ruled that “(t)he victim’s consent is rendered meaningless due to the coercive, abusive, or deceptive means employed by perpetrators of human trafficking. Even without the use of coercive, abusive, or deceptive means, a minor’s consent is not given out of his or her own free will.”

Two police officers testified that during an entrapment where they acted as decoys in Cebu City’s red-light district, accused Casio “called their attention by saying “Chicks mo dong? (Do you like girls, guys?)”

The accused told the officers to wait and then, returned after a few minutes with two girls whose services would cost Php500 each.

The rescued minor “described (that) her job as a prostitute required her to display herself, along with other girls, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. She received Php400 for every customer who selected her.”

The entrapment was carried out after the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression, coordinated with the police in order to entrap persons engaged in human trafficking in Cebu City.

In his ponencia, Leonen said that “Human trafficking indicts the society that tolerates the kind of poverty and its accompanying desperation that compels our women to endure indignities… We should continue to strive for the best of our world, where our choices of human intimacies are real choices, and not the last resort taken just to survive.”

He also noted that it should be the people and the government that should unite and “contribute to a commitment to finally stamp out slavery and human trafficking.”

The SC sentenced Casio “to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2,000,000.00.”

It also raised the award of moral damages from Php150,000 to Php500,000, and awarded exemplary damages in the amount of Php100,000 in accordance with a previous ruling.

In her defense, the accused claimed that the minor “admitted engaging in prostitution” prior to the accused’s recruitment and that she “was predisposed to having sex with customers for money.”

However, the ruling stressed that “trafficking in persons can still be committed even if the victim gives consent.”

It is the second time since the passage in 2003 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law that the SC took a strong stance on the trafficking of persons.

The first was in 2011 when the SC upheld in the case of “People vs. Lalli”, written by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the conviction of two illegal recruiters after they sent four women, including a minor, to Malaysia to work as prostitutes.