Angeles City court junks human trafficking case vs jeepney driver
ANGELES CITY, Pampanga — In less than a week, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 118 here dismissed the human trafficking case filed by the city government against a jeepney driver for allegedly exploiting a group of Badjaos for personal gain.
In an order dated May 23, Judge Rene Reyes directed the commander of Police Station 3 to release 57-year-old jeepney driver Daniel Lingad from custody due to a lack of evidence against him, as determined by the court.
Judge Reyes said that the inquest prosecutor, in bringing the case to court, heavily relied on the complaint statement, arrest statement, and witness statement provided by officers and personnel from the city’s traffic management office and emergency disaster command center. These allegations were solely based on a closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.
Lingad was invited for questioning at the city hall on May 18 and detained the next day at the police station for alleged violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
It was alleged that the accused used his jeepney to “recruit, transfer, receive and/or had been transporting Badjaos from Pandan to Sto. Rosario, Angeles City in a systematic manner, for the purpose of begging or asking money from other people or passerby, to which the said accused deriving profits from the said acts and exploiting them for mendicancy.”
Such a crime is punishable by life imprisonment.
In his order, the judge said the complaint and affidavit submitted to the court were based merely on the information relayed by an employee of the city emergency disaster command center who allegedly saw through CCTV a blue jeepney (CVB 212) transporting Badjaos from Angeles-Magalang Road in Pandan village to Sto. Rosario village at 4:30 a.m. on May 18.
In a separate sworn affidavit executed by the city hall employee, he narrated the same event he saw on the CCTV.
After reviewing the submitted pieces of evidence, including the sworn statements and the CCTV footage, the judge found nothing that proves that the jeepney driver had recruited Badjaos for mendicancy.
“In fact, no evidence was presented to establish the claim that the alleged ‘badjaos’ were ‘begging or asking money from other people or passerby’ for the benefit of the herein accused,” the judge said, adding that not even one of the alleged Badjaos had been identified and executed a sworn statement to narrate how they were allegedly exploited by the accused.
Reyes said that even if it is assumed that Lingad did transport a group of Badjaos in his jeepney, there is insufficient evidence or grounds to prove that the jeepney driver violated any of the acts punishable under the law against human trafficking.
“Wherefore, the foregoing considered, the instant case for violation of Section 4 (a) in relation to Section 6 (c) R.A. 9208, as amended by R.A. 10364 filed against accused Daniel Lingad y Mangune is hereby ordered DISMISSED for want of probable cause,” stated the order.
Since May 18, the city government has been rigorously implementing the Anti-Mendicancy Law of 1978 by apprehending beggars, street children, and homeless individuals in various parts of the city.
The individuals who have been “rescued” are being brought to the city’s primary evacuation center and sent back to their places of origin as part of the “balik-probinsya” program.
The city government has requested motorists and commuters to refrain from giving alms to street and road beggars, as such actions are considered a crime under the Anti-Mendicancy Law of 1978.
The city’s social welfare and development office previously highlighted in a social media post that the aforementioned law acknowledges the fact that “mendicancy breeds crime, creates traffic hazards, endangers health, and exposes mendicants to indignities and degradation.” INQ
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