SC Sentences Two Human Traffickers to Life Imprisonment for Prostituting Minors
October 5, 2023
The Supreme Court has affirmed the penalty of life imprisonment and fine of PhP2 million each imposed on two individuals found guilty of qualified human trafficking for peddling minors for sex.
In a Decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, the Court’s Second Division denied the appeal of Rizalina Janario Gumba, a.k.a. “Mommy Riza,” and Gloria Bueno Rellama,, a.k.a. “Mommy Glo,” and affirmed the rulings of the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) convicting Gumba and Rellama of qualified human trafficking under Section 4(a), in relation to Section 6(a), of Republic Act No. (RA) 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003), as amended by RA 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012).
The accused were floor managers of a bar in Cavite where they hired victims AAA and BBB, both 15 years old, and PPP and GGG, both aged 18, and other young girls in their early 20s. Following a tip that prostitution was taking place in the bar, undercover agents went into the bar as customers on October 10, 2014. There, Gumba and Rellma told the undercover agents that they could pay to have sexual intercourse with the girls in the bar’s VIP room, for the price of PhP1,500.00 per girl.
An entrapment and rescue operation was then conducted by the police officers on October 22, 2014 that led to the arrest of and filing of charges against Gumba and Rellama.
In sustaining the lower courts’ conviction of Gumba and Rellama, the Supreme Court held that their commission of qualified human trafficking, specifically the trafficking of children for the purpose of prostitution, as defined under Section 4(a), in relation to 6(a), of RA 9208, as amended, was established by the prosecution.
To sustain a conviction for such crime, the State must establish the concurrence of the following elements: (1) the act, which can be the “recruitment, obtaining, hiring, providing, offering, transportation, transfer, maintaining, harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders”; (2) “[t]he means used,” which include “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 payment or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person”; (3) “[t]he purpose of trafficking,” which is prostitution; and (4) the victim’s age, which should be below 18 years.
In the present case, all four elements were met, ruled the Court. First, it was established that Gumba and Rellama offered AAA and BBB to customers, not merely for entertainment but also for sexual intercourse. Second, it was proven that Gumba and Rellama took advantage of AAA and BBB’s vulnerability as minors. Third, AAA and BBB confirmed that Gumba and Rellama’s acts of offering and providing them to customers for sex were in exchange for money. Finally, the certificates of live birth of AAA and BBB show that they were minors at the time of the crime.
The Court also upheld the validity of the entrapment operation, applying both the subjective and objective tests.
Under the subjective or origin of intent test, the focus of the inquiry is on the accused’s predisposition to commit the offense charged, his state of mind, and inclination before his initial exposure to government agents.
The objective test, on the other hand, considers the nature of the police activity involved and the propriety of the police conduct.
The Court found that the series of events established by the prosecution “cements [accused’s] long-standing readiness and willingness to offer young girls for sex, in exchange for money, as soon as any favorable opportunity arose.” Hence, Gumba and Rellama’s predisposition or propensity to commit qualified human trafficking was established, passing the subjective test.
Further, on the nature of the entrapment operation, while the police officer did ask Gumba to provide him with girls for a party, he never said anything about the girls needing to have sex with the party’s guests. “Yet Gumba took it upon herself to get condoms and distribute the condoms to the eight girls whom she provided to [the police officer],” stressed the Court. “[The accused] never even needed any prodding by way of illicit inducement on the part of the police,” the Court held, concluding that the entrapment operation also passed the objective test.
In addition to the penalties of life imprisonment and fine, the Court ordered Gumba and Rellama to pay victims AAA and BBB PhP500,000.00 each in moral damages, and PhP100,000.00 each in exemplary damages, both sums with legal interest of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this Decision until fully paid.
Full text of G. R. No. 260823 (People v. Gumba and Rellama, June 26, 2023) at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/260823-people-of-the-philippines-vs-rizalina-janario-gumba-a-k-a-mommy-riza-and-glorio-bueno-rellama-a-k-a-mommy-glo/