A 21-YEAR-OLD online trafficker was sentenced to spend the next 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to her crime Wednesday, March 6.

The trafficker (name withheld due to her relationship with one of the victim) confessed to the crime of attempted trafficking in persons before Judge Ramon Daomilas Jr. of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 11 past 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Branch 11 is the designated cybercrime court for Central Visayas.

The trafficker was arrested on April 23, 2018 at her residence in Cordova, Cebu during an entrapment operation conducted by the Women and Children's Protection Center (WCPC).

During the entrapment operation, the trafficker offered to stream live the sexual abuse of three girls, ages 6, 9 and 11.

The six-year-old victim is the trafficker’s niece.

Aside from the 15-year sentence, the trafficker was also ordered to pay P500,000 in fines and P100,000 in exemplary damage.

She was originally charged with qualified trafficking in persons, which bears the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million.

The arrest and rescue operation was a result of the collaboration among the Women and Children's Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit, the Anti-Cybercrime Group-Central Visayas, Provincial WCPD, Department of Social Welfare and Development Region regional office, and International Justice Mission (IJM).

“Plea bargaining convictions are a win-win in every way. This conviction through plea bargaining 11 months after the rescue operation really gives justice and closure to the three young survivors, none of whom needed to testify in court to the abuse and trauma they suffered. Once again, the justice system has delivered everything the Osec victims needed -- first beginning with the rescue operation that stopped the abuse, then the proper filing of charges, and now this delivery of justice in a way that promotes survivor healing and recovery,” said lawyer John Tanagho, IJM Cebu field office director.

In a statement, Cordova Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho said she has “mixed emotions” when she hears about perpetrators or victims coming from her municipality.

“I am aware that poverty is one of the reasons why they commit this crime, but we all know that this is not the solution to their poverty. It only makes the problem worse,” she said. “That is why this development -- putting them behind bars -- teaches those committing cyberpornography a lesson: that crimes, especially those committed against children, will not go unpunished.”

After pleading guilty to her crime, the trafficker faced the six-year-old victim, who was accompanied by her mother (the trafficker’s sister) and grandmother (the trafficker’s mother) in a reconciliatory meeting facilitated by a psychologist.

During the meeting, the trafficker took responsibility for her crime, acknowledged what she did to the victims, and even apologized and sought for forgiveness.

Speaking in Cebuano, she said to her niece: “I am going to prison not because of you but because of what I did. So be good and work hard in your studies.”

The victim’s mother expressed relief, saying in Cebuano, “We are happy that [the exploitation] was discovered early on and the child was rescued.”

So far in IJM-supported cases, 56 persons have been convicted in the Philippines for perpetrating Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (Osec).

IJM has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in the arrest of 193 Osec perpetrators and the rescue of 454 victims and children at-risk across the country. (PR)