CONVICTED. The accused (in orange shirt) stands inside the court during the sentencing of her crime. (Photo courtesy of IJM)

In Samar

TACLOBAN CITY- The regional trial court in Calbayog City sentenced a 33-year-old mother to 15 years imprisonment after offering to stream live the abuse of her young daughter on March 8.
The mother, who was arrested last year, was sentenced to an additional one month in prison after she pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.
As part of a plea bargain, she was sentenced after confessing to the crime of attempted trafficking in persons before Judge Reynaldo Clemens, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court-Branch 31.
After pleading guilty to her crimes, the accused faced her victims in a reconciliatory meeting facilitated by a social worker and a local church pastor.
“I was hurt when you took pictures of me naked. I felt guilty because I got separated from you for what happened,” the 10-year old girl told her mother, in the local dialect.
She then shared to her mother a verse from the Bible about God forgiving those who ask for forgiveness from people they have wronged.
“Forgive me for what I’ve done to you,” she said to her daughter and niece, also in the local dialect.
“I am ashamed of it. I hope you can forgive me, and we can be together again,” said the mother as acknowledged the crime and expressed remorse.
Aside from the prison terms, the trafficker was also ordered to pay combined fines totaling P775,000.
She was originally charged with qualified trafficking in persons which bears the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million if the accused is convicted after a full-blown trial that can last several years, said the International Justice Mission (IJM).
“This conviction through plea bargaining affirms that in holding Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) perpetrators accountable, child protection should always be prioritized,” IJM said in a statement.
Members of PNP’s Women and Children Protection Center –Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) arrested the trafficker during an entrapment operation on July 28, 2018 at her residence in Sta. Margarita.
She had offered to stream live sexually explicit acts involving her 10-year-old daughter in exchange for money from an online predator.
Police and social workers from the Samar Provincial Social Welfare and Development
Office rescued the girl and the trafficker’s 13-year-old niece and 8-year-old nephew.
Atty. John Tanagho, IJM Cebu Field Office Director said that government, through Prosecutor Jennylyn Sumagang-Durmiendo, obtained swift justice for the victims.
“(The State) also protected the children from the rigors of having to testify in court against their own mother and aunt,” added Tanagho in a statement.
Sta. Margarita Mayor Gemma Zosa also welcomed the conviction, saying “child trafficking is a crime that exploits girls and boys for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex.”
“As the local chief executive of the municipality of Sta. Margarita, it is our aim to protect children from being abused, and to rehabilitate survivors, and help them in rebuilding their lives,” she said, expressing her gratitude to authorities and non-government organizations that help rescued the child.
Regional Prosecutor Irwin Maraya, head of the Regional Anti-Trafficking Task Force – 8, said the plea-bargained conviction “is a product of the joint effort of government and private stakeholders.”
“This ‘one team’ approach is key to combating these depredations on the young and innocent,” he added.
WCPC-VFU Chief Romeo Perigo hailed the successful plea bargaining.
“Today’s conviction is a win for the government in its campaign against OSEC. The reduced [prison] sentence gives [the perpetrator] an opportunity for reforms – to reintegrate to the community after serving her sentence and take care of her family once she’s released from prison.”
Based on IJM-supported cases, 57 persons have been convicted in the Philippines for perpetrating OSEC since 2011.
The organization has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in the arrest of 193 OSEC perpetrators and the rescue of 454 victims and children at-risk across the country.