2 bar owners to face cases-A A +A
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
TWO bar owners and six alleged pimps were accused of human trafficking in complaints filed yesterday afternoon before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.
Two days after a raid that led to the rescue of 43 females, some of them minors, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama wanted to know why bars that allegedly hire victims of trafficking are able to operate.
“We should not be afraid to go in the direction of closure,” Rama told reporters in his regular press conference yesterday.
The Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) filed complaints against Marycris Brigole, 23, Maria Kristine Noquera, 24, Janice Cabardo, 26, Charo Palima, 33, Crisanta Caramelo, 28, and Marcia Damo-ag, 37.
They were accused of violating Republic Act (RA) 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, as amended by RA 10364.
The same case was filed against alleged Pussycat Bar owners Matthew Gerard Davies, an American, and Australian national Robert Andrew Walton. The complaint will undergo preliminary investigation because they were not caught during the raid.
Mayor Rama also asked what happened to the Cebu City Inter-agency Council against Trafficking (CCIACAT), which is headed by Councilor Lea Japson.
Cebu City Police Office’s City Intelligence Branch Chief Romeo Santander clarified they do not have the authority to raid establishments allegedly engaged in human trafficking because there are special units tasked to conduct the operation.
In Central Visayas, it’s the RAHTTF, he said.
“We will be giving assistance by helping monitor bars here in Cebu City and submit whatever information we may know,” said Santander.
Rama said he will call on CCIACAT, City Anti-Indecency Board and the Liquor Licensing Commission for a meeting.
“This will now become a challenge. Nganong wala ma ni nakit-i (Why didn’t they notice this)?” asked Rama.
Section 7f of the Cebu City Anti-Indecency Ordinance prohibits persons under 18 years old to perform in any stage show or performance in night clubs, beer houses, cocktail lounges, bars and similar establishments.
Before the six women were presented to Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Aida Sanchez for inquest proceedings yesterday, Brigole, Noquera and Cabardo covered their faces with towels. They allegedly worked for Pussycat Bar.
An inquest is a summary inquiry that is meant to check if the warrantless arrest of a person can be justified by probable cause.
The suspects were giggling while reporters tried to interview them. Their lawyer is Alex Tolentino.
When asked if they were pimps, one of the women said: “Ngano gud tawn (Why would we do that)?”
During the inquest, they did not avail of their right to a preliminary investigation, following the advice of their counsel. As a result, the complaints will be elevated to the court for trial. A trafficking case is non-bailable.
Tolentino defended the suspects, saying they are not pimps and bar workers. His clients also have children to feed. He also criticized the police for not raiding neighboring bars along Gen. Maxilom Ave.
“Naa diay sacred cow ani (Are there sacred cows here)?” he said.
After they learned they cannot post bail, Brigole, Noquera and Cabardo hugged themselves while crying. Palima, Caramelo, and Damo-ag of Club Temptation were also presented before Sanchez. They also opted not to file their counter-affidavits.
The Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 is monitoring other bars in Cebu City that are suspected to be involved in human trafficking.
Supt. Pablo Labra II, acting chief of the RID, said they received reports that there are other bars that hired minors to work as entertainers.
He refused to name the other bars so as not to hamper their succeeding operations after the raid on Pussycats and Club Temptation on Gen. Maxilom Ave. last Saturday.
The head of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) 7 said the lawyer of Pussycats is trying to deflect the issue by alleging that his clients lost cash and a computer during the raid.
In an interview Sunday night, lawyer Alex Tolentino said the bar lost P200,000 and a laptop during the raid.
“They can allege whatever they can. But we’ll still file the case,” said Senior Insp. Ma. Theresa Macatangay said.
As for the absence of a search warrant, she said they didn’t need a warrant to conduct the raid because there was already an entrapment before operatives swooped down on the bars.
“It’s explained in our report. They could just look there,” Macatangay said.
Labra, for his part, said the rescue of the 43 women and the arrest of six alleged pimps should serve as a warning to other establishments engaged in trafficking.
According to a study of the Inter-Agency Task Force Against Human Trafficking, victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking, whether domestic or abroad, do not know what kind of work awaits them.
After last Saturday’s raid, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 is trying to contact the parents, family members and verifying the age of minors in their custody.
Shalaine Marie Lucero, DSWD 7 protective services unit head, said the minors will stay in their custody while their cases are under evaluation.
“We can’t blame it on poverty. (It could be that) parents are not aware of what is right and wrong,” she said.
Assistant Regional Director Nemia Antipala said the agency believes they have a window of three months to be able to intervene in these cases.
“After three months, they become acclimatized and they get used to having gadgets and money,” she said.
“Later on, they don’t see themselves as victims and they see the rescuers as a hindrance (to their source of income),” she added.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 24, 2013.