Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 9208 (RA 9208), otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, defines Trafficking in Persons, as follows:
Trafficking in Persons – refers to 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 (Emphasis supplied)
Section 4 of RA 9208 enumerates the prohibited acts of Trafficking in Persons, one of which is:
(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.
The crime of Trafficking in Persons is qualified when committed by a syndicate, as provided in Section 6(c) of RA 9208:
(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 10(c) of RA 9208 provides for the penalty of qualified trafficking:
(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).
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act is a new law passed last 26 May 2003, designed to criminalize the act of trafficking in persons for prostitution, sexual exploitation, foced labor and slavery, among others.
In this case, Aringoy claims that he cannot be convicted of the crime of Trafficking in Persons because he was not part of the group that transported Lolita from the Philippines to Malaysia on board the ship M/V Mary Joy. In addition, he presented his niece, Rachel, as witness to testify that Lolita had been travelling to Malaysia to work in bars. On the other hand, Lalli denies any involvement in the recruitment and trafficking of Lolita, claiming she only met Lolita for the first time on board M/V Mary Joy going to Malaysia.
The testimony of Aringoy’s niece, Rachel, that Lolita had been travelling to Malaysia to work in bars cannot be given credence. Lolita did not even have a passport to go to Malaysia and had to use her sister’s passport when Aringoy, Lalli and Relampagos first recruited her. It is questionable how she could have been travelling to Malaysia previously without a passport, as Rachel claims. Moreover, even if it is true that Lolita had been travelling to Malaysia to work in bars, the crime of Trafficking in Persons can exist even with the victim’s consent or knowledge under Section 3(a) of RA 9208.
Trafficking in Persons under Sections 3(a) and 4 of RA 9208 is not only limited to transportation of victims, but also includes the act of recruitment of victims for trafficking. In this case, since it has been sufficiently proven beyond reasonable doubt, as discussed in Criminal Case No. 21930, that all the three accused (Aringoy, Lalli and Relampagos) conspired and confederated with one another to illegally recruit Lolita to become a prostitute in Malaysia, it follows that they are also guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Qualified Trafficking in Persons committed by a syndicate under RA 9208 because the crime of recruitment for prostitution also constitutes trafficking.
When an act or acts violate two or more different laws and constitute two different offenses, a prosecution under one will not bar a prosecution under the other.50 The constitutional right against double jeopardy only applies to risk of punishment twice for the same offense, or for an act punished by a law and an ordinance.51 The prohibition on double jeopardy does not apply to an act or series of acts constituting different offenses.
The criminal case of Trafficking in Persons as a Prostitute is an analogous case to the crimes of seduction, abduction, rape, or other lascivious acts. In fact, it is worse. To be trafficked as a prostitute without one’s consent and to be sexually violated four to five times a day by different strangers is horrendous and atrocious. There is no doubt that Lolita experienced physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation when she was trafficked as a prostitute in Malaysia. Since the crime of Trafficking in Persons was aggravated, being committed by a syndicate, the award of exemplary damages is likewise justified.