My cousin has a big problem. She and her friends applied with an agency for what they thought was overseas employment. They paid a lot of money, hoping they will be legally employed once they get to Malaysia. It turned out that they were arranged to serve in a prostitution den. Fortunately, they were able to return home. Now, they want to know whether they can file a case against the agency that transacted with them. Your soonest advice will be highly appreciated.
Based on the facts that you have shared with us, we can conclude that your cousin and her friends are victims of human trafficking because they were contracted for overseas employment which, unfortunately, turned out to be a mode of prostitution. As provided for under Republic Act No. 9208 or the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003,” it is unlawful for any person, whether natural or juridical, to recruit, transport, provide, or receive a person or persons 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 (Section 4 (a), id).
In addition, Section 6 (c) of R. A. No. 9208 considers an act as qualified trafficking if the deployment is committed by a syndicate, or in large scale. The act of trafficking is deemed to have been 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 such is committed against three or more persons, whether individually or as a group.
Accordingly, your cousin and her friends may file a criminal complaint against the persons who procured their services before the Office of the City or Provincial Prosecutor of the place where the offense was committed, or where any of its elements occurred, or where they actually reside at the time of the commission of the offense.
Should they be able to prove the commission of the crime of human trafficking, the owner, president, partner, manager, and/or any responsible officer who participated in the commission thereof or have knowingly permitted or failed to prevent its commission may be penalized with imprisonment of twenty years and a fine of not less than One million pesos but not more than Two million pesos. If committed by a syndicate or in large scale, the penalty that may be imposed is life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Two million pesos but not more than Five million pesos (Section 10, id). Apart from the foregoing, the registration of the said agency with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its license to operate may be cancelled and revoked permanently, and the owner, president, partner or manager thereof will no longer be allowed to operate similar establishments in a different name.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.