A woman charged with human trafficking and illegal recruitment was convicted on Wednesday by a Zamboanga City regional trial court, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said on Friday.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz hailed the conviction of suspect Arlene Ramos as a major victory in the country?s anti-human trafficking and anti-illegal recruitment efforts, saying she hoped the conviction would effectively deliver the message to human traffickers and illegal recruiters.
?The conviction is a boost to our efforts to protect overseas Filipino workers and bring those who victimize Filipino workers to jail. We at the DOLE are very pleased with this victory,? said Baldoz.
Judge Reynerio G. Estacio of the Zamboanga RTC Branch 14 sentenced Ramos to eight years in jail and a fine of P250,000 for illegal recruitment, with additional years in jail in case of insolvency. He also slapped Ramos an additional 20 years in jail and a fine of P1 million for human trafficking, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
Ramos, aka ?Michelle Ramos,? ?Arlene Lee,? and ?Arlene Anova,? was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 7(a) of Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995; and of human trafficking under Section 4(a) in relation to Sections 3(a) and 10(a) of Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
The case was filed in 2005 after Ramos, who was found to have no license from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), recruited two girls for nonexistent jobs as food servers in a restaurant in Sabah.
Ramos promised the victims? mother that her daughters would receive the monthly salary of P12,000 each, but said the cost of the recruitment would be through salary deduction equivalent to P3,000 for the first four months. Ramos further told the mother not to worry because she (Ramos) would take care of the needed documents.
It turned out that Ramos had sold the girls to slavery. She first brought them to her house in Catumbal, Cabaluay, Zamboanga City, then to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, where they were forced to board a vessel of the Aleson Shipping Lines which brought them to Sandakan in Sabah.
In Sabah, the girls were forced to work as domestic helpers without pay. One of the girls was forced to become a sex-slave. Afraid to escape because they had no documents, they accepted their fates, but toward the end of 2005, were able to go back to the Philippines. One of them arrived home on Dec. 3, while the other on Dec. 27.
?The court has carefully examined the evidence on record and finds that the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the commission by the accused of both illegal recruitment and violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003,? Judge Estacio said in his decision.
With the conviction, Baldoz said the DOLE will be ?doubly inspired? to relentlessly pursue its anti-illegal recruitment and anti-human trafficking activities to ensure the protection of Filipino workers (OFWs).
?We hope to prosecute more and convince the courts to convict more criminals engaging in illegal and predatory activities, including fixers, scammers, and traffickers who target particularly women and children,? she said.