TWO women pled guilty on Wednesday, September 23, to offenses related to online sexual exploitation of children (Osec).
One was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted trafficking, while the other was sentenced to six years in prison for a child abuse offense.
Both women -- mother and daughter -- also pled guilty to possession of child sexual abuse materials, resulting in additional two months sentence for each.
Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 24 Judge Jose Nathaniel Andal handed down the sentences via video conference after the two accused entered into plea bargain agreements.
Juliet (not her real name), 23, entered guilty pleas to attempted trafficking under Republic Act (RA) 9208 as amended by RA 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act) and possession of child sexual abuse materials under RA 9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act).
For the first offense, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of P500,000. She was ordered to pay P500,000 in moral damages and another P100,000 in exemplary damages.
For the second offense, she was sentenced to additional two months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of P100,000.
Her mother, Michelle (not her real name), 43, was sentenced to a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment after entering a guilty plea to a violation of RA 7610 (Anti-Child Abuse Law).
She was ordered to pay P50,000 in moral damages and another P50,000 in exemplary damages.
For pleading guilty to possession of child sexual exploitation materials, she was sentenced to additional two months imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of P100,000.
Under a plea bargain agreement, the accused pleads guilty not to the original charges but to other similar offenses, usually before a court trial starts. This protects child victims from the possibility of having to testify against the perpetrators who are often family members or neighbors, reducing the possibility of re-traumatization.
“Justice was served. It was served swiftly without going through the rigors of trial. What was even more satisfying was seeing the parties reconcile -- hearing the accused admit the wrong they committed, seeing their remorse, and hearing the victims, including the eight-year-old, accept their apology. More important than the penalty of imprisonment imposed in the court's judgment is the promise that this family will once again be reunited and, having learned the hard lessons from this case, will learn to uplift each other, instead of victimize a family member,” said Prosecutor Misty Leah Escolar-Hupp.
IJM Cebu Field Office Director Lucille Dejito shared: “Despite the limitations brought about by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we see the steadfast effort of our prosecution partners and our courts to keep the wheels of justice turning. We are encouraged to see how our judiciary is adapting to the new realities, making full use of available technology to see this conviction through. Technology-based, child-protective measures such as videoconferencing hearings allow us to uphold the best interest of the child during this time of pandemic.”
Juliet and Michelle were arrested in Cebu City on April 10, 2019, by the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit. Their arrest through a sting operation followed an investigation that revealed they were engaging in Osec. Juliet’s two younger sisters, aged 18 and 21, and her six-year-old daughter were rescued during the operation.
Osec is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) 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. (PR)