CR-HC NO. 04882
Court: Regional Trial Court
Location: National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 140, Makati City
Date of decision: 31 January 2011
Reference: CRIM CASE NO. 09-1771
Court: Republic of the Philippines Court of Appeals Manila
Location: Ma. Orosa St., Ermita, 1000 Manila, Philippines
Date of decision: 31 July 2012
Reference: CR-HC NO. 04882
Victims / Plaintiffs in the first instance
Defendants / Respondents in the first instance
The Public Prosecutor, who was also a private investigator of International Justice Mission (IJM) was conducting surveillance along A.Santos Street in Paranaque, when he chanced upon the accused Arce, his gay friends and his girls offering “short time”. Sensing that Arce was a pimp, the Prosecutor talked to him and befriended him. The Prosecutor introduced himself as a tour guide for a Japanese Travel Agency and told him that he is expecting Japanese tourists coming to the Philippines to be his guests. On June 20, 2009 the Prosecutor received text message from said accused asking him if he wanted to see his girls to which he agreed. They set a meeting on June 22, 2009 to be held beside Burger Machine at Green Heights Subdivision in Paranaque. With a camera hidden inside his belt bag, the Prosecutor arrived at around 8 pm at the agreed place. Shortly after, 4 to 5 girls came, aged between 16 and 17 years. Arce explained to the girls that the Prosecutor was a tour guide for Japanese Nationals who would be visiting the country and those girls would have sex with these Japanese. The Prosecutor went to the NBI to submit his surveillance report for the conduct of entrapment operation on Arce. At the NBI, the agents viewed his surveillance and read his report. The Prosecutor was assigned as a conduit person for Arce in the entrapment operation to be held on June 30, 2009. They formed a team and each person were given their assigned task as follows: the Prosecutor on board rented a van, together with a driver, proceeded to Mini Stop Paranaque. They picked up Arce and his five girls aged between 16 and 17. Among the five girls victimized by Arce, only two testified. The first one was Jelica (17), who was together with her friend Ela. Jelica first met the accused, known as Tita Kim, through her friend Janer Alinas sometime in March 2009 at Lopec Compound in Paranaque City. Janet told her that Kim was a pimp and after a brief introduction, Kim immediately recruited her, which she accepted.
At Mini Stop, both girls met the other girls Maica (16 and also testified), G. (18) and I. J. (19) ( the true names of the minors are withheld). Maica, the second witness testified, was introduced to Kim thru her friend Jeffrey, and on June 29, 2009 she received an offer from Kim through text messages to work as a tour guide for Japanese Nationals. As she needed money, she accepted the offer.
According to the accused, each of them would receive P 6,000.00 to be given later, as payments of their services as the accused will receive P10,000.00. Thereafter, a van arrived at Mini Stop. They proceeded to KFC Makati City. At KFC, the Prosecutor introduced Arce to NBI Agent posed as interpreter. Then, Arce introduced the girls to the interpreter and to the NBI asset who acted as Korean national. After the introduction, the interpreter asked Arce how much is the rate of each girl which he replied P 15,000.00 each in exchange of sexual services. Then, the interpreter handed the money to Arce. While Arce was counting the money the interpreter stood up and showed his badge to Arce and arrested him, while the other NBI agents who were positioned nearby approached them.
From the foregoing definitions, the Court heard the testimonies of said witnesses and found no reason to doubt that the accused had hired, and recruited Maica, Jelica, Ela, Girlie and Ilona Jane on June 30, 2009 for prostitution.
Charges / Claims / Decisions
Section 6 (a) and (c), in relation to Sections 4 (a) and (e), 3 and 10 (a) and (c) of Republic Act No. 9208 or otherwise known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”
Since the accused was charged for qualified trafficking that provides for a higher penalty, the prosecution must prove that the crime was attended by qualifying circumstance of minority and large scale under Section 6.
Section 6. Qualified Trafficking in Persons. - The following are considered as qualified trafficking:
(a) When the trafficked person is a child;
c) When the crime is committed by a syndicate, or in large scale. Trafficking is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another. It is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons, individually or as a group
Section 4. Acts of Trafficking in Persons. - It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to commit any of the following acts:
(a) To recruit, transport, transfer; harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;
(e) To maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography;
Section 10. Penalties and Sanctions. - The following penalties and sanctions are hereby established for the offenses enumerated in this Act:
(a) Any person found guilty of committing any of the acts enumerated in Section 4 shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twenty (20) years and a fine of not less than One million pesos (P1,000,000.00) but not more than Two million pesos (P2,000,000.00);
(c) Any person found guilty of qualified trafficking under Section 6 shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Two million pesos (P2,000,000.00) but not more than Five million pesos (P5,000,000.00);
Section 17. Legal Protection to Trafficked Persons. - Trafficked persons shall be recognized as victims of the act or acts of trafficking and as such shall not be penalized for crimes directly related to the acts of trafficking enumerated in this Act or in obedience to the order made by the trafficker in relation thereto. In this regard, the consent of a trafficked person to the intended exploitation set forth in this Act shall be irrelevant
The undersigned State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice hereby accuses Mark Anthony Arce of the crime of Qualified Trafficking in Persons defined and penalized under Section 6 (a) and (c), in relation to Sections 4 (a) and (e), 3 and 10 (a) and (c) of Republic Act No. 9208 or otherwise known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”, committed as follows:
On or about June 30, 2009, in Makati City, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court the accused Mark Anthony Arce, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously hire and recruit Maica (16), Ela (17), Jelica (17), G. (18), I. J. (19) for the purpose of prostitution and sexual exploitation, to their damage and prejudice. The crime was attended by the qualifying circumstance of minority and having been committed in large scale.
The accused claimed that he was not involved in the crime charged against him. He tried to justify his presence at the crime scene by claiming that he had only accommodated Katrina’s request to accompany the girls to KFC Makati and that he had accepted the money due to the insistence of the NBI asset who had acted as Korean national. However, the alibi of the accused was contradicted by his own admission in his Counter-Affidavit. The accused claimed that the reason why the girls accepted his offer was not because he forced them, but because they wanted the money. His attempts to exculpate himself by stating that he did not coerce, force or threaten the five girls to go with the male clients for prostitution were not considered relevant to the Court. Even if the 5 girls had, in fact, consented to the prostitution, the accused would still be liable under Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9208 because their consent was irrelevant in the prosecution of said crime under Section 17 of R.A. No. 9208.
On appeal before this Court is the 31 January 2011 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 149, finding appellant Mark Anthony Arce y Fernandez @ Kim guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Qualified Trafficking in Persons under Section 6(a) and
(c) in relation to Sections 4(a) and (c), 3 and 10 (a) and (c) of R.A. No. 9208 sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of two million pesos (P2,000,000.00)
During the trial in the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, the prosecution presented its case through the testimonies of its witnesses, namely: National Bureau of Investigation Special Agents (2) Anson, Private Investigator of International Justice Mission, the two minor complainants, two Forensio Chemists together with documentary and real evidence marked as Exhibits “A” to “X” with sub-markings.
The prosecution sought to prove that the accused was engaged in the trafficking of minors and women for prostitution or sexual exploitation. On June 30, 2009, the accused delivered and sold five girls for prostitution, but the girls’ actual sexual encounter with their individual customer was aborted due to the entrapment of the accused. The accused recruited and hired them, purposely to deliver them to a paying customer – the poseur –customer- to perform sexual services.
The accused-appellant argued that his guilt had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, appellant claimed that the he could not be convicted of the crime of Trafficking in Persons because the prosecution had failed to establish the identity of the victims as well as their minority. However, the testimony of the above witnesses revealed that, contrary to the appellant's claim, the prosecution was able to prove the identity, as well as the minority of the victims and the same were not objected to by the defence.
The video taken on June 22, 2009 clearly showed that the accused was, from the very start, involved in peddling the minors and his wards to sexual abuse. The Court heard the testimonies of said witnesses and found no reason to doubt the veracity of their declarations.
The defendant was found guilty of trafficking in persons, which was a clear violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9208, and the penalty prescribed for violating Section 4 (a) and (e) is found in Section 10 of R.A. No. 9208. Since the accused was charged for qualified trafficking that provides for a higher penalty, the prosecution was to prove that the crime had been attended by qualifying circumstance of minority and large scale under Section 6. “Large Scale” as alleged in the Information also qualifies the offense. Large Scale means that “the trafficking of persons is committed against three or more persons.” In the Information, it appeared that 5 persons were the victims of the accused, but only two of them testified. However, less number of victims who testified does not mean there is no sufficient evidence to prove that the offence was committed in large scale or against three or more persons. The testimony of the two victims, as well as the testimonies of the Private Investigator of International Justice Mission and Special Agent, including the video of the surveillance meeting on June 22,2009 and the entrapments on June 30, 2009, showed that 3 or more girls had been recruited and hired by the accused for the purpose of offering them to foreign nationals for prostitution or sexual exploitation.
Therefore, the Court of Appeal states that the Decision dated 31 January 2011 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 140, Makati City is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
Sources / Citations
CRIM CASE NO. 09-1771
CR-HC NO. 04882