Former ‘sex victim’ arrested in human trafficking operation

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Sunday, February 9, 2014


AT 14, Stephanie Reynes became a victim of human trafficking.

While still a freshman in high school, she was prostituted by a woman who sold her to an old American inside a hotel in an upscale district of Cebu City.

Ten years later, Reynes became a pimp herself.

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Police arrested her last Saturday in a shopping mall, in an operation against the flesh trade.

Poverty, Reynes said, pushed her into human trafficking. Her husband’s meager income can’t support their two children, ages two and four.

Reynes fell in an entrapment conducted by operatives of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 last Friday night in Mandaue City.

Eleven people, including four minors, were rescued by the police. They had allegedly been sold for P8,000 each, in exchange for sex.

Insp. Sheryl Bautista, deputy chief of the RAHTTF, said that young victims of human trafficking are prone to end up recruiting women and children themselves for commercial sex.

“Na-expose naman sila gud. Naa na sila’y idea unsaon (Their exposure gives them an idea how it works),” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

Without proper guidance and strong support, Bautista said, these young survivors could fall into the same trap, what with the lure of easy money.

She said Reynes was among the suspected pimps they were monitoring after they learned she was allegedly trafficking minors.

Through a police decoy, the police got a contact number of Reynes and asked her to bring 11 people to their meeting.

When Reynes accepted the P64,000, the amount in exchange for the services of the victims, she was immediately arrested.

The 11 persons she brought with her were referred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The minors, three girls and one boy, are all 16.

Reynes, detained at Subangdaku Police Station, said it was her first transaction after she got encouraged by her former classmate.

“Giingnan ko nga go na lang kay basin mao na ang swerte nato (This person told me to go ahead because we might get lucky),” she said.

She said she didn’t know many of the girls, who were brought to her by her classmate.

She was promised at least P500, but wasn’t sure if it was the amount per head or for the whole group.

Inside the detention cell, Reynes narrated she was abused by her uncle and entered prostitution without her jobless parents’ knowledge.

At home, she hid her ordeal from her family. In school, her classmates envied her provisions.

Reynes, however, didn’t finish high school and only got up to her sophomore year, which limited her job options.

She then met her live-in partner and got pregnant at 19. She stayed home to care for the family, trying to leave the past behind, but the bills kept piling up.

Her children are now being cared for by her mother-in-law, while her partner is trying to find a way to get her out of jail.

“Gusto lang gyud ko makakita sa akong mga anak. Gimingaw na ko nila (I just want to see my children. I miss them),” Reynes said.

A criminal complaint for violating Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 will be filed against her before the Mandaue City Prosecutors’ Office today.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 10, 2014.

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