Woman gets life imprisonment for running dad’s brothel in Lapu-Lapu City
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The daughter of a brothel owner on Thursday was convicted of qualified trafficking for selling young women and girls for sex.
The Regional Trial Court in Lapu-Lapu sentenced Lorna Valencia Santos, 39, and a native of Marikina City, to life imprisonment or maximum of 40 years in jail.
Executive Judge Toribio Quiwag of the RTC Lapu-Lapu, also ordered Santos to pay P2.6 million in damages to the nine victims she purportedly recruited as prostitutes in 2008.
Santos’ younger sister, Shiela, was cleared by the court for “insufficiency of evidence.”
Their father, Eduardo, who owned a bar named Hanna Valley in Lapu-Lapu City and his five managers remain at large.
Lorna and Shiela hugged each other when they heard the verdict during the promulgation past 9 a.m. on Thursday.
“The decision was painful. There was no evidence against us. Why was I convicted?” said Lorna. “But what else I could do? I have to accept (the decision).”
Lorna and Shiela left Marikina and moved to Cebu in 1996 after their mother died.
Lorna said she earned a living by operating a sari-sari store and eatery in Lapu-Lapu City while her sister served as a private driver.
The two were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in December 2010 by virtue of a court-issued arrest warrant, two years after Hanna Valley was raided.
When the brothel was raided on June 3, 2008, the NBI rescued 47 women and three girls. Business permits indicated that Hanna Valley was owned by Eduardo Valencia, the father of the Lorna and Shiela.
The victims claimed that they were taken out for sex by customers who paid P1,500 to P4,000 to the brothel managers.
Regardless of the bar fine, the victims would receive only P500 each.
In his ruling, Judge Quiwag didn’t give credence to the testimonies of Lorna who was identified by the victims as one of the managers of the brothel.
“The prosecution has built a strong case against Lorna Santos. The denial interposed by the accused cannot prevail over the strong declaration of prosecution witnesses that she took part in the management of Happy Valley,” he said.
Quiwag, however, didn’t find sufficient basis to convict Shiela who was accused by the victims of managing another brothel.
“Shiela was only seen talking to Lorna and other managers of Hanna Valley. This alone is not sufficient to indict her in this case. As to the other casa (brothel) which Shiela allegedly managed, it is immaterial in this case,” the judge said.
Lawyer Jesse Rudy, the national director of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in the Philippines, lauded the NBI, state lawyers, and other government agencies in working hand in hand with the organization in the fight against human trafficking.
“Convictions like this are necessary if we are going to ultimately end trafficking here in Cebu. This is a big step. This should send a good message out to the community that there are significant penal consequences for engaging in trafficking. It doesn’t matter matter how long it takes. Justice will eventually come,” he said.
IJM data showed that a total of 530 victims of sex trafficking were rescued by law enforcers in Metro Cebu from 2004 to 2013.
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