REGIONAL Trial Court Judge Gilbert Moises yesterday cleared a couple of accusations that they pimped a then 16-year-old girl in 2011.
Moises, of the RTC Branch 18, acquitted Ricardo Ramos and his wife, Myrla, of qualified trafficking.
“The court is not oblivious of the efforts of the prosecution in trying to discredit the testimony of the accused, but the fact remains that the burden of proof is still with the prosecution,” said Moises in his eight-page judgment.
The couple, whose heads were bowed while the decision was read, broke down in tears after hearing the judgment. Ricardo said they were jailed for almost three years for the crime they did not commit. They thanked God for answering their prayer of acquittal.
“Nagpasalamat ko’s Ginoo kay wa jud mi sala ani (We thank God because we really are innocent),” an emotional Ricardo told reporters after the proceedings.
Lawyer John Tanagho, International Justice Mission (IJM) deputy field officer director, said they will review the ruling of the court.
Nevertheless, Tanagho said they respect the decision.
“The arrest and prosecution of the couple show that law enforcement in the Philippines is serious about investigating and combating cases of human trafficking.
The IJM believes the case was strong against the accused,” he told reporters.
Tanagho said law enforcement will continue to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking.
“Sometimes, judges will disagree that there is enough evidence to convict and that’s the judge’s role in the judicial system,” he said.
The couple’s lawyer Salvador Solima welcomed the decision, saying his clients are innocent and mere victims of a case fabricated by the police and the IJM.
“Wa may ebidensya gud sukad sa pagsugod pa lang (There was no evidence since it began),” Solima said.
Operatives of the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) arrested Ricardo, 53, and, Myrna, 48, in an entrapment in Barangay Kamagayan, Cebu City last April 14, 2011.
The operation was carried out in cooperation with the IJM and the Department of Social Welfare and Development 7.
The police said the couple, who owns a videoke house, would allow customers to drink beer there and introduce the trafficked girl to them.
A police asset posed as a customer allegedly gave Ricardo P2,000 in exchange for sex with the girl. The victim would receive P500 for every transaction.
But Ricardo denied the charges, arguing that he was tending to his store in Barangay Kamagayan when the police conducted the entrapment.
He testified that armed men passed by as they chased someone, who ran towards the basketball court.
When the armed men returned, they went inside Ricardo’s store, searched him, but recovered nothing.
He said the armed men, who he later found to be policemen, asked for his necklace, but he refused to give it.
Myrla then approached the policemen and asked why they were taking her husband to the police station.
The police then brought the couple to the station and charged them with qualified trafficking.
In the judgment, Judge Moises ruled that the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove that the couple hired or maintained the victim as a prostitute.
“The entrapment operation left much to be desired. The police officers relied heavily on the information relayed to them by the IJM that the accused were engaged in illegal trafficking of minors,” said Moises.
The policemen did not conduct their own surveillance to observe how the suspects conducted their illegal trade, the judge said.
The judge also gave weight to the testimony of the victim, who said that she lied in her sworn affidavit.