AN Australian man and his Filipina cohort were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in jail for pimping 15 women, including three minors, in 2013.
Judge Marlon Jay Moneva of the Regional Trial Court Branch 20 found Drew Frederick Shobbrook and Leslie Ann Fernandez guilty of qualified trafficking in persons.
Moneva sentenced them to life imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of P3 million combined.
“Human trafficking indicts the society that tolerates the kind of poverty and its accompanying desperation that compels our women to endure indignities,” read Judge Moneva’s decision.
Defense lawyer Salvador Solima said he will appeal his clients’ conviction.
Both convicts declined to be interviewed by reporters.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 had charged Shobbrook and Fernandez with violating Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Shobbrook, 51, of Sydney was also charged with 12 other counts of the same offenses and illegal possession of firearms. Shobbrook was arrested in a raid by the NBI 7, assisted by the International Justice Mission (IJM), last April 17, 2013. IJM has repeatedly assisted local authorities in tracking down and rescuing victims of human trafficking.
In this case, NBI 7 agents, led by supervising agent Rey Villordon, rescued 15 girls, including some who were believed to be minors.
The NBI 7 said that Shobbrook employed people to hire girls who are between 14 and 17 years old. Fernandez assisted Shobbrook in recruiting minor girls.
Four former female employees also went to the NBI 7 to complain about Shobbrook’s alleged online pornography site.
Replying to the charges, Shobbrook denied prostituting the victims and said that two of them, whom he claimed to be his former girlfriends, conspired to have him arrested.
In their affidavit, the women said that the Australian lured minor girls to work for him in his house in exchange for cash, goods, and educational support.
These girls would either live with him or would visit him regularly in one of Shobbrook’s three apartments in Cebu City.
Shobbrook used these girls for sex and created child pornographic images and videos with them that he then distributed online. The girls also testified that he offered them to other foreigners for sex.
Judge Moneva also convicted Shobbrook of possession of child pornography and sentenced him to 20 years in jail and a fine of P1 million for that case.
Shobbrook was ordered to pay the victims P500,000, plus P100,000 as exemplary damages.
Lawyer John Tanagho, IJM Cebu field office director, lauded the NBI and the prosecution and judicial officials involved in this case for “administering justice with the utmost objectivity and integrity.”
“Today’s convictions send a strong message that if you sexually abuse and exploit Filipino children online and create child pornography, you will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison,” said Tanagho.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2018.
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