Brothel owner convicted-A A +A
Thursday, July 4, 2013
THE court yesterday convicted a man the police said was the owner of a prostitution den in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City.
Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr. sentenced Valentino C. Martin to spend 20 years in jail for violating Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003.
He found sufficient proof that Martin was the ringleader behind the operation of Gate 3 on J. Panis St. The judge also ordered him to pay a fine of P1 million.
Martin’s fellow accused Loida Santos Valencia and Shiela Santos Valencia were acquitted for lack of evidence, while the criminal liability of Mariane Diaz was extinguished after her death on June 20, 2012.
“How can there be doubt in the mind of the Court that Gate 3 was no innocent boarding house but was in fact a bordello with evidence so overwhelming?” said Dumdum.
He further said: “The interlinked accounts of no less than 11 reliable witnesses, a video recording of the raid taken by a secret camera, and the numerous items seized during the implementation of the search warrant, which by any stretch of the imagination cannot be considered innocent items of domestic utility, and whose presence and uses are consistent with the running of a prostitution den.”
The four accused were arrested in an entrapment by the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force 7 (RAHTTF7) on Dec. 3, 2010.
They rescued 34 girls, whose ages range from 19 to 30.
Martin told reporters he could accept the judge’s decision, while the Valencia sisters were glad they will be set free.
International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines National Director Andrey Sawchenko said they respect the court’s ruling.
“It sends a very clear signal that this is a serious crime,” he said.
Defense lawyer Noel Archival said they will sue IJM, saying the organization is based in the US and no foreign lawyers are allowed to prosecute cases in any Philippine courts. Sawchenko said they will wait for the lawyer’s action.
The raid was captured on video and based on the search warrant issued on Nov. 30, 2010 by RTC Branch 13 Judge Meinrado Paredes.
During the search, the police recovered 125 packs of unused condoms, 56 contraceptive pills, 23 sex-enhancing pills, hygiene cards, a pornographic magazine, vibrator, notebooks containing the names of the customers and debts, bullets and other items.
Dumdum took notice of a girl’s letter “addressed to God” written in the notebook: “I wish na magkapera ako kasi gusto ko matapos an gaming bhay para pag-uwi ko sa Mayo magandan an gaming bahay!!! Sana Lord tulungan mo ako!!!”
The accused pleaded not guilty during their separate arraignments.
Before the raid, the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) 7 received information about the illegal activity being done in Gate 3.
PO1 Cliferson Olandag, PO1 Nef Nemenzo and a civilian asset put the place under surveillance.
On Nov. 25, 2010, around 8 p.m., they went to Gate 3. Loida allegedly was the one who opened the gate.
Martin allegedly led them to a display room, where they were made to choose girls.
Olandag noticed that Sheila pressed the buzzer to alert the girls about the guests’ arrival. They chose two girls and paid Martin P4,000.
They brought the girls to a karaoke bar and got information from the girls that Gate 3 was a prostitution den.
RAHTTF 7 Head Maria Theresa Macatangay planned for an entrapment on Dec. 3, 2010.
Olandag and Nemenzo were given marked money worth P15,000 for the transaction.
When they were inside the compound, Martin allegedly pressed the buzzer. Diaz then led them to the display room.
They chose three girls and handed P7,500 to Diaz. Martin asked for a tip of P500.
Afterwards, Nemenzo signaled to Macatangay, and the team rushed inside to arrest all the accused. The marked money was recovered from Martin.
During trial, Nemenzo said the raid was captured on a hidden camera he wore. Two video files were stored in a compact disc (CD) and were shown in court.
In the first video, Olandag was seen entering the display room.
While in the second video file, Olandag was seen handing money to Diaz. Martin then entered the room.
After Olandag gave the money, Diaz could be heard saying: “I-out ang babaye.”
Nemenzo was later heard telling Olandag: “Bai, Waterfront (hotel) na, bai.”
The word “Waterfront” was the signal that the marked money was already accepted by the accused.
For their part, Loida and her sister Shiela said they were inside the store that sells condoms when they were arrested.
Martin denied he offered girls to Olandag and Nemenzo. He said the two police officers told him to reserve a case of beer for Dec. 3, 2010.
When confronted during trial with the video that showed him asking for a tip of P500, he said he was just joking.
But Dumdum was not persuaded, saying he and Diaz were the most active in the transactions.
He said one of the girls’ notebooks mentioned Martin’s name.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 04, 2013.