Cebu court sends 3 women to prison for trafficking kids
LAPU-LAPU CITY—Three women here will spend 23 to 37 years in prison for livestreaming the sexual abuse of minors, including their children, in exchange for money.
Judge Christine Muga-Abad of the Regional Trial Court Branch 70 here rendered the judgement on Wednesday after the women pleaded guilty to multiple charges under plea bargaining agreements.
In plea bargaining agreements, defendants plead guilty to a lesser offense or to some of the charges in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Melanie (not her real name), a 22-year-old mother, was sentenced to 23 years in prison and was ordered by the court to pay P600,000 in moral and exemplary damages. She was arrested in March 2018 in Lapu-Lapu City for trafficking four minors into online sexual exploitation. Among the victims was her daughter, who was 4 years old at the time of rescue.
Maricel, 36, and Jennifer, 27, (not their real names) were sentenced to 37 years and 23 years in prison, respectively. Abad ordered each of them to pay P600,000 in damages.Maricel and Jennifer were arrested during simultaneous police operations on April 26, 2016, in this city. Authorities rescued Maricel’s three children and Jennifer’s two children.
The operations were led by the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center–Visayas Field Unit, in coordination with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Group, the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office and International Justice Mission (IJM).
The women pleaded guilty to violations of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9208), Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 (RA 9775), Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) and Anti-Child Abuse Law (RA 7610).
“Every child has the right to live in a safe environment. Pursuant to it is the government’s relentless efforts and the valuable assistance of organizations, such as IJM, toward the protection of our children,” public prosecutor Antonio Aseniero said in a statement.
John Tanagho, IJM Cebu field office director, said the recent convictions should serve as a lesson to other people who were involved in the same illegal business.
“[This] sends a clear message that the Philippine government and the rule of law are on the side of vulnerable children,” he said.
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