A multi-sectoral network against trafficking in the Philippines led by Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) hails a landmark verdict handed down by a local judge in Batangas City last June 30 against a female trafficker who was sentenced serve life imprisonment and pay two million pesos for violating the anti-trafficking law.
Judge Florencio Arellano found the trafficker guilty of qualified trafficking defined under Section 4-A of RA 9208 known as Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 based on the complaint of two victims, who were then minors. They testified that they were supposed to be recruited as sex workers in Puerto Galera contrary to the original promise of being employed as waitresses in Batangas City.
Last March 2005, the victims, including two other minors and three women, were rescued by Batangas port security guards who later alerted the law enforcement to investigate on the trafficker who failed to explain the suspicious nature of the recruitment and present necessary details of the travel.
The court also ordered the trafficker to pay fifty thousand pesos for moral damages to each of the two victims who pursued the case with the assistance of the local anti-trafficking task force authorities and the half-way house protection services of VFFI.
VFFI President and Executive Director, Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda considers the promulgation as a "landmark conviction because the court gave weight to the testimony of the victims that their trafficker, during the initial stages of the recruitment, forced to check on their virginity and ages then told them they are fit to work as guest relations officers and that foreigners would demand them highly for sex-related services."
"The court interpreted this as trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, even if the victims have not actually landed into prostitution. This should serve as a stern warning against traffickers that authorities are ready to warn, help and protect vulnerable victims as they pass through hotspots so we can prevent further exploitation," says Flores-Oebanda.
The case was handled by the International Justice Mission (IJM) and the Batangas City Prosecutor's Office with the support of the Batangas Anti-Trafficking Task Force.
Prior to this conviction, the Batangas Regional Trial Court has already sentenced two traffickers to six months of community services after pleading guilty to Section 11 of RA9208 for "use of trafficked persons." According to Department of Justice tally, there have only been 11 convicted traffickers in seven cases under the RA 9208 in the country.
VFFI, a non-government organization established in 1991, works for the welfare and security of marginalized migrants, specifically the trafficked women and children and the domestic workers or kasambahays. VFFI provides assistance to trafficking victims through the halfway houses it operates in Manila, Batangas, Matnog, Davao, and Zamboanga. VFFI will soon open the doors of three more halfway houses at the ports of Iloilo and Surigao and at the Manila International Airport. Trafficking victims are also given psycho-social services, trainings and legal assistance to name a few.