CA acquits foreigner jailed for 12 years

CA acquits foreigner jailed for 12 years for qualified trafficking of minors charge
BAGUIO CITY – The Court of Appeals has set free a foreigner found guilty by a Baguio court of committing qualified trafficking in persons on a minor after almost 12 years in detention.
In a 24-page decision issued on March 14, 2019, the CA reversed the decision of the Baguio RTC Branch 7 penned by Presiding Judge Mona Lisa V. Tiongson-Tabora which found American David W. Stonecypher guilty beyond reasonable doubt of qualified trafficking in persons in relation to Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 otherwise known as Republic Act 9208, committed on a 15-year old male in Baguio City on March 2007.
Stonecypher earlier argued that the cases against him were fabricated and were filed against him in pursuit of the country’s effort to improve the implementation of Republic Act 9208 in order to avail of the USAID foreign aid amounting to 250,000 U.S. dollars.
The CA directed the immediate release of Stonecypher from detention unless he is detained for other lawful causes.
In its decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, the CA ruled that the RTC Baguio failed to consider all the elements of qualified trafficking in persons, which could not be considered as committed without one of its important elements.
The CA said for qualified trafficking in persons to be committed, the following elements must be present as provided in RA 9208: the act of recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge within or across national borders; the means used which include threat or use of force or other force of coercion on taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person; or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another; and the purpose of trafficking is exploitation which includes exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, among other forms.
The CA ruled that the first two elements were present, but based on the evidence, the prosecution failed to prove the third element or that they were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
The Appellate Court emphasized that “there was no evidence, testimonial or otherwise, showing that the accused knowingly harbored, transported or transferred the alleged victim to Baguio for the purpose of child sexual exploitation, either in the form of exploitation for prostitution or for the production of pornographic materials and/or sexual performances.”
“The determination of whether or not the (name of minor omitted) was trafficked depends on the third element, for sexual exploitation. And it remains incumbent for the prosecution to prove this element. But (after) a thorough and judicious review of the records of the case, the Court, however, finds that the prosecution failed in this regard,” the CA stated.
The court pointed out that Stonecypher was in fact even acquitted of sexual abuse and another qualified trafficking in persons
The alleged victims also made numerous retractions of their testimonies, which according to the CA had rendered their testimonies in doubt; as well as various letters addressed to a judge, a court staff, social workers, and to Stonecypher where the victim denied his previous sworn statements against the foreigner.
The case was filed in 2007 against Stonecypher together with another qualified trafficking case involving the 17-year male companion of the 15-year old complainant, both from Surigao del Sur, and a sexual abuse charge all allegedly committed in Baguio City, wherein the foreigner was both acquitted by the same RTC.
The two minors, with the assistance of Department of Social Welfare and Development, accused the foreigner of sexually abusing them after he transported them to Baguio City and promised them shelter, clothing and to support their education.
Thom F. Picana/ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon