JUSTICE SERVED

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol October 02,2018 - 11:33 PM

CONVICTED. A photographer climbs on a BJMP vehicle to get a good angle of the arrested couple who allegedly exposed their six children in cyberpornography in Cordova town more than seven years ago. On Tuesday, the two were found guilty of qualified trafficking and other cases and will have to spend the rest of their lives in jail. (Inset photo) The CDN front page printed on June 2, 2011 showing the banner story and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale meeting the rescued children.
CDN/ file photo

RTC sentences couple to a life in jail for using their six children in cybersex; Magpale hails victory in Cebu’s 1st cyberporn case

The long road to justice has ended.

A couple will be spending their lives in jail for using their six children in their home-based cybersex business in Cordova town, Mactan Island, Cebu.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Tuesday found them guilty of qualified trafficking and other cases, ending the seven-year trial in what was Cebu’s first documented cyberpornography case.

The couple did not speak a word nor displayed any emotion when the verdict was read.

Their children were not present during the promulgation but would be told of the decision of Judge Ferdinand Rafanan of RTC Branch 55 in Mandaue City who found overwhelming evidence against their parents.

The two were sentenced to life imprisonment for qualified trafficking and five to 12 years imprisonment for “other acts of child abuse.”

For “offering, transmitting, and broadcasting any form of cyberpornography” the couple was meted a penalty of 12 to 20 years behind bars.

The cases for “inducing a child to perform in the production of child porn” and “knowingly permitting one’s child to participate in child pornography” were dismissed by the court since the elements of these crimes were already present in the qualified trafficking case.

The court also ordered the accused to pay a total of P12.8 million in fines.

While the law against human trafficking allows the media to identify the accused, Cebu Daily News is withholding the names of the couple to protect the identities of the victims who were their own children.

Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, co-chairperson of the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), could not contain her joy of securing justice for the victims of the accused.

“This is a long-grown battle we have had. Imagine, this is the first cyberpornography we filed against a Cebuano couple. The mood of PWC is just (ecstatic),” she told CDN.

Magpale earlier choked when she testified in court as she described the videotape she watched of the children in lewd poses being directed by an adult behind the camera.

“I couldn’t sleep after watching that,” Magpale said.

“This conviction sends a very strong message that we, in the province of Cebu, are very serious in our campaign against human trafficking. What could be a stronger message than this conviction? There’s definitely no letup in our campaign,” she added.

Prosecutor Lolita Lomanta, the lone state lawyer who represented the victims throughout the proceedings, said conviction of the two accused validated the victory in rescuing the latter’s children in 2011.

“We already obtained victory the day we rescued these children because that was when we gave them hope. This conviction is simply a validation of that victory we obtained. To me, this is victory especially for the children,” she said in an interview.

“Just consider where these kids are now and what have they become. We restored hope to them. We waited this long. Finally, the victory has been validated,” she added.

The victims were turned over to the care of a private, non-profit institution which has provided a safe haven for them in the last seven years.

The older brothers, now aged 22 and 20, are out of the center. One is working as a cook in a cruise ship abroad while the other is a production operator in an industrial company.

The third of seven children is a graduating student of Bachelor of Science in Social Work in a private university in Cebu.

She also serves as a volunteer for the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children as one of its street educators.

Their mother was eight months pregnant when arrested. She later gave birth to a son inside the Lapu-Lapu City Jail.

The couple’s seventh child is now with her siblings at a private institution chosen by the Capitol in 2011.

Lomanta said she and Magpale, in collaboration with psychologists, will inform the children about the verdict on their parents and its implication.

“They have the right to know. They are of age already. We cannot keep them uninformed,” she said. The case was “of many firsts,” said Lomanta.

Aside from being Cebu’s first documented cyberpornography case, Lomanta said it was also where they first activated the mutual legal assistance treaty between the Philippines and the United States.

“This is the first case where agents of the US Homeland Security testified in a local case. They flew all the way from Virginia to testify in a local case at no expense of the Philippine government,” she said.

The US Homeland Security agents, she added, were covered by a waiver of immunity which can be used so they can’t be forced to testify.

“But they have to waive that immunity. Their efforts were just so great not to recognize,” she said.

Lomanta said the hard drives seized by authorities from the house of the accused were sent to the Cybercrime Center in Virginia for forensic examination, hoping to trace other perpetrators and victims.

Cybersex is a billion-dollar global industry that proliferates with easy access on the internet. Based on a report from the International Justice Mission (IJM), a US-based nonprofit that fights human trafficking and child exploitation, more than 300 children in the Philippines have been rescued since 2011 after law enforcers stepped up their campaign against cyberpornography.

At least 133 suspects nationwide have been arrested as of April 2018 — 77 percent of whom were parents, relatives and close family friends of the victims.

In the case of the two accused, they made their six children undressed and posed naked in front of a web camera for the pleasure of online pedophiles through a pay-per-view cyberpornography business.

For each live online performance, the family reportedly earned between $25 and $100 (P1,000 to P5,000).

Acting on a tip from the PWC, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raided the house on June 1, 2011 and rescued the children.

In an interview last May, one of the rescued victims, now 18, said she and her siblings didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards their parents.

But she said they knew that what their parents did was wrong.

“What we’re going through as a family isn’t easy. But I believe there is a reason for everything. It’s up to us to give up or to move forward in life,” said Martha (not her real name).

She said she also wants to return to their place and educate people about the menace of cyberpornography.

“There are many ways to earn a living, and they just have to think well without compromising the rights of children. Parents should consider our future,” said Martha.

“For those who continue to expose their children to cyberpornography, there’s still time to change. Do it now while it’s still early. Remember regrets always come last,” she added.

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TAGS: Cebu’s 1st cyberporn case, children, cybersex, jail, Justice, life, RTC, sentences, served, six, using

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