VIZMIN, PHILIPPINES – Plea Bargaining time and again has been a proven legal strategy for the Philippine Justice System in prosecuting cases of online sexual exploitation of children. This was made evident as 4 suspects were convicted of their crimes in the Visayas and Mindanao through a plea agreement.
Conviction No. 1 - On April 19, 2022, a Regional Trial Court in Ozamis sentenced 1 male and 1 female accused after their motions to plead guilty to a lesser offence was granted. They were both sentenced to suffer the penalty of 15 years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine amounting to P500,00.00 with an additional P50,000.00 for civil liabilities.
For charges related to R.A. 9775, the court imposed a penalty of 2 years, 4 months and 1 day imprisonment for both accused and for them to pay a fine of P100,000.00 plus an additional P50,000.00 for civil liabilities each.
Conviction No. 2 – On April 25, 2022, a week after the Ozamis conviction, a Regional Trial Court in Lapu-Lapu sentenced a female suspect to a straight penalty of imprisonment for 15 years and to pay a fine of P500,000.00 for attempted trafficking under Sec. 4-A of RA 9208, as amended, after she entered into a plea bargaining agreement.
She also pleaded guilty to a lesser offence for violation of Sec. 6 of RA 7610 and was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment for 2 years, 4 months and 1 day of prison correctional as a minimum to 4 years as maximum.
Conviction No. 3 – On May 12, 2022, another conviction through plea agreement materialized in a Regional Trial Court in Lapu-Lapu. In this particular case, a female accused pleaded guilty to attempted trafficking and was sentenced to a straight penalty of imprisonment for 15 years and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.
In addition, the court also sentenced her to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment for 2 years, 4 months and 1 day of prison correctional as a minimum to 4 years as maximum after she pleaded guilty to a lesser offense for violation of Sec. 6 of RA 7610.
“Let this conviction send a strong message that crime does not pay. Perpetrators will at some point have to face the consequences of their crime. Rule of law dictates that they should be penalized.”
- Prosecutor James Lobedica
Region VII Regional Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane had this to say of the turnaround of events:
“This conviction by plea bargaining is not just to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes but also a tool to prevent children who have already been abused from a possibility of being retraumatized by the rigors of trial.”
In relation to the prosecutor’s statement, Atty. Lucille Dejito, Director of IJM Cebu Field Office added:
“These recent convictions in Visayas and Mindanao are a testament to the relentless work and commitment of our duty bearers in law enforcement, prosecution and judiciary to ensure that violence against children will not thrive with impunity. We hope that these convictions and stiff penalties will serve as strong deterrence for traffickers who are exploiting children online.
Online sexual exploitation of children is a crime that violates the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 9208 (as amended by RA 10364), which comes with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of P2 million to P5 million. Typical OSEC offences also violate RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) and RA 9775 (Anti‐Child Pornography Act of 2009). Both have penalties equivalent to 20 to 40 years imprisonment.
Note to Editors:
- IJM is withholding the name of the perpetrator to protect the children’s identities
- The Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Luxembourg Guidelines, prescribes the use of the term “child sexual abuse material” or “child sexual exploitation material” instead of “child pornography”, except when referencing the name of statute. Sexualized material that depicts or otherwise represents children is a representation, and a form, of child sexual abuse and should not be described as “pornography.”
About International Justice Mission:
IJM is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.