As part of the government’s continued efforts in the fight against human trafficking, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the Philippine’s lead body against human trafficking published the list of individuals convicted for violation of Republic Act 9208 as amended by Republic Act 10364 (Expanded Anti-Human-Trafficking Act) last May 6, 2013 in leading newspapers.
Most of those in the list were involved in sex or cybersex trade preying on the underprivileged either by force, fraud or through promise of big money. It included convictions such as those of PO2 Dennis Reci and Jennifer Ebarat. Policeman Reci owned a bar used as a prostitution den while Jennifer was found guilty of three (3) counts of Qualified Trafficking through the use of minors for begging. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment and fined P2 Million each.
The list, however, does not only include Filipino citizens and those who promote and facilitate such activities. It also includes the customers or those found guilty of the “Use of Trafficked Persons”, an act criminalized by the anti-trafficking law. This was true in the case of Marcus Haldon Hodge, a foreigner, who engaged the services of a 12-year old boy. He was found guilty of two (2) counts of said offense and was sentenced with 1 year imprisonment and a P100,000.00 fine. Another foreigner, Bo Stefan Sederholm, a cybersex den operator, was sentenced with life imprisonment and P2 Million fine. “Trafficking” would also involve forced labor, as in the case of last person on the published list, Visitacion Dela Cerna, who coercively recruited a 16-year old girl to be a domestic helper. Dela Cerna, upon a plea bargain, was sentenced with 6 years imprisonment and P500,000 fine.
According to DOJ Secretary and IACAT Chairperson Leila M. De Lima the said publication should serve as a stern warning to those who continue to engage in human trafficking activities. She said most of those convicted were handed down the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and fines ranging from P1 Million to as high as P8 Million as in the case of one Alice Tongco. Tongco was a pimp found guilty of four (4) counts of violation of section 6(a) and section 6(e) of the anti-trafficking law, also known as Qualified Trafficking.
The Secretary lauded the huge improvement in terms of convictions over the last three (3) years. From a total of thirty (30) convictions from 2005 to June 2010, the total number of convictions increased to seventy-seven (77) from July of 2010 to 2013.
The speedy disposition of the aforementioned human trafficking cases was carried out with the help of OCA Circular No. 151-2010 and Department Circular No. 57 of the Supreme Court and Department of Justice, respectively.
IACAT utilizes all forms of media for the public’s ease of access to encourage everyone to help in the fight against human trafficking.
In 2011, it started Anti-human trafficking actionline 1343 (Hotline 1343 – direct line OR (02)1343 – thru cellular phone or provincial landline.) The following year it launched IACAT Public Assistance Corner (I-PAC) accessed through its website http://iacat.gov.ph.
Likewise, IACAT may now be accessed through social media such as facebook (https://facebook/iacat.news) and twitter (https://twitter.com/iacatnews). “Such free and faster alternative in seeking aid from the government for cases involving human trafficking affirms IACAT’s commitment in aggressively hunting down syndicates and center on giving assistance to Filipinos, both here and abroad,” said DOJ Undersecretary Jose Vicente B. Salazar, officer-in-charge of IACAT.