FIVE people, including an Australian national and his underage Filipina girlfriend, will face trial for their alleged involvement in pornographic activities in Cordova town, Cebu last year.
The Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor found evidence to charge Peter James Robinson with 10 counts of violating Republic Act 7610, which penalizes child prostitution and other forms of child abuse.
Robinson, 51, will also be tried on five counts of rape before the Regional Trial Court.
Robinson, in his counter-affidavit, had said the accusations against him were all “concocted, utterly preposterous, and a product of imagination.”
He said he had been illegally arrested while he was throwing a birthday party in Cordova and that at that time, there was no minor inside his room.
The complaints followed an operation by the Cordova Police Station and the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB), which rescued 15 minors, four boys and 11 girls, from a resort in Cordova last June 24, 2014.
A separate charge for allegedly violating Republic Act 9775, or the Anti-Child Pornography Act, was also filed against Robinson and his 17-year-old partner, Joana (full name withheld).
According to the resolution, government prosecutors found enough proof of a conspiracy between Robinson, Joana and the three other respondents, who “used, directed and influenced the complainants, who are minors” to perform “in the creation or production of child pornography”, in exchange for money.
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Ethel Sophia Miel prepared the resolution.
Government prosecutors also indicted two mothers for allegedly violating Republic Act 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons), as amended by RA 10364.
The same case was also filed against Jenneth (full name withheld), the sister of one of the minors involved.
The Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB) had filed the cases against Robinson and his girlfriend for allegedly recruiting the latter’s 14-year-old relative for pornographic activities.
The CLB also accused two mothers, Cecile and Anna Marie (full names withheld), of trafficking.
In the operation last June, Robinson and his 17-year-old partner Joana were arrested for allegedly recruiting the minors for illicit sexual activities.
The foreigner had allegedly befriended some of the minors through Facebook, while the others were allegedly recruited by Joana. He reportedly gave the minors P1,000 to P3,000 after allegedly sexually abusing them.
In her affidavit, an 11-year-old girl said that her mother Anna Marie allowed her to go with Robinson and Joana to Manila in February 2014.
The girl said that she and three other minors were allegedly instructed to take their clothes off inside a hotel room, where Joana took pictures while Robinson performed sexual acts with them.
The girl said that Robinson gave them P2,000 each. The same thing allegedly happened the next day, but that time, Robinson gave them P3,000 each.
Anna Marie’s other daughter, 10, said she and her sister were accompanied by their mother to meet Robinson at a resort in Lapu-Lapu City from May 15 to 19.
The girl said she also saw the foreigner abuse a boy last June 23. She said he took pictures of them naked and later gave them P2,000 each.
In the joint resolution, Prosecutor Miel gave weight to the testimony of the minors.
“The taking of pictures of the complainants while they were naked and the showing of their genitals are explicit acts engaged in real, lewd and sexual activity in the creation or production of child pornography,” wrote Miel.
The prosecutor also pointed out the two mothers and a sister of some of the minors knew what would happen to the children in the resort.
In fact, Miel said, one of the respondents accompanied the children to Robinson’s room and took photos of them while they were naked.
“It was apparent that respondents have been providing children to an Australian national for the purpose of sexual exploitation and even prostitution as the children were given money,” said Miel.
In an interview, lawyer Noemi Truya-Abarientos, spokesperson of the Children’s Legal Bureau, said they are not glad that they have to prosecute mothers.
“We are not happy that parents are involved because as Filipinos we know that we care for our family,” she told Sun.Star Cebu. “But this should serve as an example to all the other parents that they should not sell their own children.”
She said the children were candid with them, and narrated that their mothers sold them to Robinson.
Some of the children’s parents and relatives also undressed with the minors, said Abarientos.
The Anti-Cybercrime Group 7, she said, recovered pictures of naked minors and adults from Robinson’s cellular phone.
Abarientos said the mothers and relatives they filed complaints against had visited the CLB office last year and denied using the minors in prostitution and online pornography.
“Actually, nangari na sila diri naghilak-hilak na namo (They visited our office and they cried),” she said. “Di gyud maka-claim og ignorance ang mga ginikanan kay naa gyud sila sa picture apil sila sa hubo-hubo (They cannot claim ignorance because they were also in the pictures, naked).”
She said the photos had not been taken for personal consumption, but for business.
The lawyer added that the police are still locating Robinson’s other contacts and trying to identify his employer and other victims.
“He has other cohorts in the Philippines,” Abarientos said.
Abarientos said it was Joana who contacted the mothers, who in turn offered their children. The mothers are jobless. Their husbands have gone to other places to search for work.
The children involved were reportedly released from the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development last September.
Abarientos said she hopes that parents who used their children for prostitution would mend their ways.
“We will not hesitate to file a case if there is really a need, like in this one. Grabe ang scheme, grabe ang gidaghanon sa mga bata (The scheme is horrendous. There are so many children involved),” she said.