LAPU-LAPU CITY, CEBU – Last Friday, Hon. Christine Muga-Abad, the Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 70 sentenced a 31-year-old woman to serve fifteen (15) years in prison and ordered her to pay a fine of not less than Php 500,000.00 but not more than Php 1 Million for exploiting her own niece in exchange for money online.
This was the conclusion of cases that started from the implementation of a search warrant by the Women and Children Protection Center Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) on November 24, 2016. Police searched 2 adjacent houses in one of the barangays within the area. Upon searching one of these houses, police were able to discover child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM), as well as drug residue and paraphernalia. The officers were able to seize a smartphone and a tablet belonging to the suspect. Contained in these devices were several CSEM in which one of the sexually exploited children was identified as the perpetrator’s own niece. This was the same suspect who pleaded guilty to other offenses related to online sexual exploitation.
These simultaneous operations in 2016 not only led to the arrest of the perpetrator for possession of (CSEM) but also led to the subsequent filing of a case of qualified trafficking in persons against her in 2017.
At the trial, plea bargaining once again proved to be an effective child-protective legal strategy to secure justice for the victim. It facilitates the victim’s journey to healing and restoration like the private complainant in this case, while ensuring perpetrator accountability.
Atty. Lucille Dejito, Director of IJM Cebu Field Office, reacting to the turn-around of events said that:
This type of crime happens in communities and such is the case here where two neighbors, the accused and another one earlier convicted, who abused children in their communities but now have been finally restrained. Effective law enforcement through arrests, prosecution and conviction of criminals, is a strong deterrence that will keep the children in our communities safe from online sexual exploitation.
The survivor from the case is currently staying in a DSWD accredited shelter undergoing the necessary trauma informed intervention to begin the path towards restoration.
Key Terms: Online sexual exploitation of children is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 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. ###