ILIGAN CITY, Lanao del Norte -- The Regional Trial Court Branch 2 sentenced on November 18 one male trafficker and his female accomplice for offenses related to online sexual exploitation of children (Osec).

The suspects, in exchange for money online, sexually abused three female minors, including the sister and cousin of the male trafficker.

The conviction was the conclusion of a July 7, 2021 back-to-back rescue operation conducted by the Women and Children Protection Center Mindanao Field Unit (WCPC-MFU).

During that time, police operatives from WCPC-MFU encountered the male suspect during a routine cyber patrol, which led to further investigation and the eventual arrest of the suspect. This resulted in the seizure of electronic devices and money transfer receipts that helped build strong evidence for the prosecution, with the suspect eventually pleading guilty to offenses related to online sexual exploitation after entering into a plea agreement on Thursday, November 18.

Upon learning of the suspects’ conviction, one of the arresting officers reacted by saying that: “The conviction of the accused in this instance brings gladness to our hearts. It is an assurance that the wheels of justice are turning. Team WCPC under the leadership of PBGen. Alessandro C. Abella, chief of the WCPC, rescued the three female minors from online sexual exploitation just this July. Knowing that the suspects are now serving their time behind bars makes all our efforts in the WCPC- Mindanao Field Unit worthwhile. May this serve as a warning to all the perpetrators of the crimes against vulnerable sectors that they will be charged for their felony.”

The male trafficker was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to attempted trafficking under Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

He was ordered to pay a fine of P500,000 and civil liabilities amounting to P50,000 per complainant.

He was also sentenced to serve additional four to six years imprisonment for violations of the Anti-Child Abuse Law and the Anti-Child Pornography Act, and ordered to pay combined civil liabilities of P100,000 per complainant.

His female accomplice, on the other hand, was sentenced to serve two to four years imprisonment and was ordered to pay civil liabilities of P50,000 per complainant for pleading guilty for other offenses in violation of the Anti-Trafficking-in-Persons Act.

She was also sentenced to serve an additional four years imprisonment for child abuse and possession of child pornography, and to pay a total of P50,000 per complainant for violating RA 7610.

For charges under the Anti-Child Pornography Act, she was sentenced to serve two years, four months and one day up to four years and two months. She was also fined P100,000 and ordered to pay P50,000 per complainant as restitution.

Regional Prosecutor Merlynn Uy, head of the Department of Justice Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force in Northern Mindanao, said: “We welcome the recent convictions handed down by the RTC, Branch 2 in Iligan City against two accused for crimes involving online sexual exploitation of children and qualified trafficking. This highlights our continuing efforts against online sexual exploitation of children in this region to ensure that vulnerable children and women are freed from this form of sexual exploitation and perpetrators are held accountable for such crimes.”

In relation to Uy’s statement, lawyer Lucille Dejito, director of IJM Cebu Program Office, said: “Online sexual exploitation of children is a serious crime and the steep penalties even on plea bargain acknowledge the gravity of this offense. We hope that this poses a strong deterrence for criminals from committing this kind of violence against children. Deterrence to criminals means protection of more children from violence.”

To date, two of the three survivors are currently safe in a shelter as they continue their journey towards recovery while the remaining survivor has now been re-integrated back to her family. (PR)