Court upholds raps vs. club owner-A A +A
Friday, October 4, 2013
THE Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the criminal prosecution of a club owner and his three staff members who were accused of trafficking women in Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City in 2011.
The appeals court reversed the order of the trial court, which held in abeyance the issuance of arrest warrant and dismissed the case against the respondents for violation of Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law.
“In sum, this court finds that the public respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in granting the omnibus motion for judicial determination of probable cause,” read the CA’s Special 18th Division decision written by Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles.
The respondents are Vinson Young, owner of Club Jaguar KTV Bar, and his father, Benny Young and two persons identified only as Tiko, the club’s overall manager and certain Ann.
Last April 9, 2011, the Regional Intelligence Division Central Visayas, Regional Anti-Trafficking Force, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the Department of Justice raided the club and rescued 146 girls.
Thirty-five of the 146 trafficking victims rescued are believed to be minors.
Of the 146 victims, only six executed their affidavits.
But only five of the six complainants implicated the Youngs in the complaint.
In May 2011, Mayor Michael Rama revoked the permit and ordered the closure of Jaguar Club on St. Michael St. in Barangay Kasambagan.
Rama issued the closure order pursuant to Section 11 of City Ordinance 2163, which cancels the business permits and licenses of establishments involved in trafficking.
The Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor later found evidence to file the human trafficking charges against the accused in court.
In June 2012, the defense filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause and argued the evidence submitted by the prosecution were insufficient to indict the respondents.
The respondents argued the prosecution failed to categorically state that they committed human trafficking, or they have knowledge of the trafficking activity.
The accused argued the club’s business name certificate bearing Vinson Young as the owner does not prove his ownership since he already conveyed the ownership to businessman Charles Theodore Rivera in 2009.
They said the complainants had even signed their affidavits withdrawing the charges against them.
In July 2012, Regional Trial Court Judge Manuel Patalinghug granted the motion of the respondents to hold in abeyance the issuance of arrest warrant and dismissed the case against them.
But the Office of the Solicitor General filed a petition for certiorari in the appeals court.
It argued the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted the accused’s motion for determination of probable cause.
The act to determine probable cause is an executive function that belongs to government prosecutors, state lawyers pointed out.
In the decision, the appeals court failed to take into consideration the Oct. 27, 2011 resolution of Assistant Prosecutor Gandhi Truya, who found evidence to hold the respondents on trial.
The justice department, in its April 23, 2012, also sustained the findings of Truya.
In the decision, Justice Ingles pointed out the information filed by the prosecution alleged all the essential elements of human trafficking charges.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 04, 2013.