Sex trafficking sans intercourse

Published by rudy Date posted on February 21, 2022

By Persida Acosta, Manila Times
February 21, 2022
300

Dear PAO,

I have a 19-year-old neighbor who was persuaded by a certain adult to have sexual intercourse with the latter’s “friend” in exchange for money. When my neighbor refused, this adult asked him to have sexual contact instead with his (my neighbor’s) friend who was with him at the time. Although they really did not want to, my neighbor and his friend caved in because they feared he might do them harm if they defied him. After that incident, he thought that this adult would not pester him again. But this adult is again inducing him to have sexual contact with his “friend” and assured him that he will be paid well. Can this adult be complained for sexual trafficking even if my neighbor has not had sexual contact with the adult’s “friend?”

Juan23

Dear Juan23,

Section 3 (a) of Republic Act (RA) 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, defines Trafficking in Persons as any of the following acts:

“x x x the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs. x x x”

As can be gleaned from the foregoing definition, the act of recruiting a person for sexual exploitation with use of threat, force or other means of coercion, with or without their consent, is considered as one of the means to “traffic” a person. In line with that, Section 4 of RA 9208 declares the same unlawful:

“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;

x x x”

While it may seem that “sexual exploitation” presupposes physical contact between the victim and the trafficker’s clients, the Supreme Court clarified that it is not so. It emphasized its ruling in the case of People of the Philippines vs Ranie Estonilo (GR 248694, Oct. 14, 2020, Ponente: Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe):

“As aptly pointed out by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, neither the presence of the trafficker’s clients, nor their intercourse with the victim/s, is required to support a finding of trafficking. As held in People v Aguirre:

Furthermore, the presence of the trafficker’s clients is not an element of the crime of recruitment or transportation of victims under Sections 3 (a) and 4 (a) of RA 9208. In the same vein, the law does not require that the victims be transported to or be found in a brothel or a prostitution den for such crime of recruitment or transportation to be committed. In fact, it has been held that the act of sexual intercourse need not have been consummated for recruitment to be said to have taken place. It is sufficient that the accused has lured, enticed[,] or engaged its victims or transported them for the established purpose of exploitation, which includes prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery and the removal or sale of organs. x x x

x x x To be sure, the gravamen of the crime of trafficking is “the act of recruiting or using, with or without consent, a fellow human being for [inter alia,] sexual exploitation” x x x”

Accordingly, your neighbor may file a complaint for violation of Section 4 (a) of RA 9208 even if no sexual contact transpired between him and the trafficker’s client, as long as he can establish, among others, that he was being persuaded to engage in sexually exploitative conduct.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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