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Cablegate: First Trafficking in Persons Conviction in 2008

VZCZCXRO7074
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1563/01 1830856
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 010856Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1146
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAWJB/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001563

SIPDIS

STATE FOR G/TIP, EAP/MTS, EAP/RSP, INL, DRL
LABOR FOR ILAB
JUSTICE FOR CRIMINAL DIVISION
STATE PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KCRM KWMN EAID RP
SUBJECT: FIRST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS CONVICTION IN 2008

REF: A. MANILA 539 (2008 TIP REPORT)
B. 07 MANILA 2459 (LATEST TIP CONVICTION)
C. 07 MANILA 1054 (PROSECUTING TIP OFFENDERS)

1. SUMMARY: On June 30, a regional trial court in Batangas
City convicted and sentenced a human trafficker to life
imprisonment. The trial judge also fined the defendant 20
million pesos (USD 446,000) in criminal penalties and ordered
her to pay 100,000 pesos (USD 2,230) in civil damages to the
two victim complainants. The trafficker, who is the ninth
person to be convicted and sentenced to prison under the 2003
Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, had recruited seven females,
including three minors, to work as "entertainers" in a
brothel only a few hours south of Metro Manila. The case is
especially notable because the victims were intercepted prior
to their arrival in the brothel and, for the first time,
prosecutors were able to win a conviction by proving the
defendant's "intent to exploit" the victims. Two U.S.
Government-funded NGOs who helped prosecute the case,
International Justice Mission (IJM) and Visayan Forum
Foundation (VFF), celebrated the conviction, which was more
than three years in the making. END SUMMARY.

BATANGAS COURT CONVICTS TRAFFICKER
----------------------------------

2. On June 30, a regional trial court in Batangas City
convicted Nelia Olegasco for "qualified trafficking" and
sentenced her to life imprisonment. (Under the 2003 Anti-TIP
Law, cases involving criminal syndicates or the trafficking
of minors are considered "qualified trafficking," a charge
that carries stiffer penalties, including life imprisonment.)
The judge also fined the defendant 20 million pesos (USD
446,000) in criminal penalties and ordered her to pay 100,000
pesos (USD 2,230) to the two cooperating victim-witnesses for
"moral damages." Olegasco is the ninth person to be
convicted and sentenced to prison under the 2003
Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law.

3. In early 2005, Olegasco recruited seven young women from
Metro Manila, including three minors aged 15 and 16, to work
as "entertainers" in the coastal resort town of Sabang Beach,
Puerto Galera, a well known sex tourism destination in the
province of Mindoro Oriental. On March 3, 2005, the girls
departed Quezon City with their recruiter and arrived at the
Batangas City Port to board a ferry to Puerto Galera. A
Batangas port security official, who had been trained on TIP
victim identification by VFF, interviewed the young women and
determined that the seven had been recruited to work as
prostitutes. The recruiter was immediately arrested, and the
victims were referred to VFF for counseling and victim
support services at VFF's Batangas Port halfway house. On
March 7, a Batangas City prosecutor filed criminal charges of
qualified trafficking against Olegasco. The case then slowly
moved through the overburdened Philippine court system for
more than three years before the June 30 guilty ruling.

4. This conviction, the first in 2008, also has significant
legal ramifications: it is the first trafficking case in the
Philippines in which the defendant was convicted based on an
"intent to exploit" victims. Prior convictions have been
largely based on the testimony of victims rescued from
exploitative and abusive situations. Many Philippine lawyers
have previously noted the difficulty of proving in court a
trafficker's "intent to exploit," particularly in cases where
the victims are intercepted while in transit. In this
landmark case, prosecutors, utilizing the evidence gathered
by well-trained investigators, were able to successfully
illustrate the defendant's intent to abuse and exploit her
victims.

TWO USG GRANTEES PLAY KEY ROLES
-------------------------------

5. An attorney with the International Justice Mission (IJM),
an NGO grantee of the State Department's Trafficking in
Persons Office (G/TIP), worked alongside the Batangas public
prosecutor throughout the case. IJM attorneys serve as
"private prosecutors," deputized by the public prosecutor to
move the case through the judicial process while serving as
the legal counsel for the victims. Following a successful
case in Cebu in 2007, this Batangas conviction is the second
TIP case handled by IJM attorneys that resulted in
conviction. IJM's Manila office currently has 16 ongoing TIP
trials, with an additional 15 cases the remain under

MANILA 00001563 002 OF 002


pre-trial investigation at the Department of Justice.

6. Visayan Forum Foundation, a Department of State and USAID
grant recipient that manages shelters for trafficking victims
throughout the country, provided significant support and
shelter for the victims throughout this case. Victim
cooperation throughout the judicial process has been a
critical component to the successful TIP convictions so far
in the Philippines, and VFF's USG-supported services help to
ensure that the victims who are pursuing cases remain
cooperative throughout the investigation and prosecution.
Through VFF's outreach program at its Batangas City Port
halfway house, VFF staff had previously conducted training to
educate government and private sector port employees on how
to identify and respond to potential trafficking victims.
The recent Batangas conviction demonstrates how VFF's
innovative approach has had a substantive impact on the
ability of Philippine government agencies to intercept
victims and successfully investigate and prosecute
trafficking cases.


Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

KENNEY

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