A 40-year-old US Navy veteran pleaded not guilty to human trafficking and child abuse charges after being caught with two underage girls at a beach resort on Bantayan Island, Cebu.
Jason Stone made his plea before Judge Antonio Marigomen of the Regional Trial Court Branch 61 in Bogo City today (Friday, May 26).
As we previously reported, police arrested Stone at 11pm on May 17 after he was found in the company of the girls, aged 14 and 16, at Marlin’s Beach Resort in Santa Fe.
Under Philippine law, any situation in which minors are in the company of an older, unrelated, person is considered prima facie evidence of trafficking and abuse of minors.
One of the girls is an elementary student while the other is a high school graduate. Both live in Barangay Maño, San Remigio town on mainland Cebu.
After police confirmed that the American was not related to the girls, he was arrested and the girls were taken to the social welfare office for counselling.
Stone has been released from custody after he posted bail of 150,000 pesos for the human trafficking charges and 120,000 pesos for the child abuse case.
Stone will be charged with violation of the Special Protection of Children against Abuse act (RA 7610), the Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 9208) or the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act (RA 10364).
The first of these acts prohibits any person to be in the company of “a minor, 12 years or under or who is 10 years or more his junior in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint, discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlor, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar places.”
Under the second act, a person is prohibited “to recruit, transport, transfer; harbour, provide, or receive a person 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.”