The enactment of RA 10364, otherwise known as the Expanded Human Trafficking Act of 2013, has given more teeth to the Philippine campaign to eradicate the evils of human trafficking. The expanded RA has included the mere attempt to traffic as a punishable offense, whereas previously, exploitative purposes must first be settled before an offender is punished. Barely a year after the passage of the expanded law, a first conviction for attempted trafficking was recorded.
Last December, a Regional Trial Court judge in Davao City handed the first conviction for Attempted Qualified Trafficking in Persons. Presiding Judge Salvador Ibarreta, Jr. of RTC Branch 8 of Region 11 granted the plea of the accused, Frederick Apique, to a lesser offense of Attempted Qualified Trafficking under Section 4(a) of Republic Act 9208 as amended by Republic Act No. 10364.
Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Chairperson of Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking IACAT), stated that this conviction shows the extensiveness of the new anti-trafficking law with the inclusion of the attempted stage in connection with the offense.
The IACAT filed a case of Qualified Trafficking in Persons against Apique earlier this year for recruiting three (3) minors to distribute flyers in public areas in the city. Instead, however, the minors said Apique forced them to let him shave their private parts and take photos of them in the nude.
"This conviction allows the State to hunt down human traffickers and get them off the streets, even by just proving the intention to commit a particular and specific felony just by their overt acts," De Lima added. Section 4-B of the new law included attempted trafficking in persons "where there are acts to initiate the commission of a trafficking-offense but the offender failed to or did not execute all the elements of the crime, by accident or by reason of some cause other than voluntary desistance, such overt acts shall be deemed as an attempt to commit an act of trafficking in persons." This was signed on February 06, 2013.
Apique was handed the penalty imprisonment of fifteen (15) years and a fine of P500,000 and to pay private complainant the civil liability of P12,000.
"For 2013, the IACAT had monitored over one hundred fifteen (115) cases resolved in favour of the State, one hundred thirteen (113) human traffickers jailed, and two hundred eighty-nine (289) victims were given justice," De Lima concluded.