A Cebu man has been sentenced to 15 years for running a ‘cyber-porn’ operation that exploited children as young as six.
Paul John Berame, aged 24, pleaded guilty to ‘Attempted Trafficking in Persons’ at a court in Lapu-Lapu City yesterday (Wednesday, October 24).
He had originally been charged with ‘Qualified Trafficking in Persons’. This more serious offence carries a penalty of lifetime imprisonment.
However, Berame entered into a plea bargain, pleading guilty to the lesser offence. As well as his prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay a total of 650,000 pesos in fines and damages.
Berame was arrested in April, 2017, during a police entrapment operation. Three underage girls were rescued during the operation.
Prior to his arrest, police investigators conducted surveillance that confirmed his involvement in the online sexual abuse of children. They were able to demonstrate that he had provided online predators with nude pictures of children ranging from six to 14 years of age.
Lawyer Lucille Dejito, the director of legal interventions with the campaign group International Justice Mission (IJM) explained why the plea bargain had been accepted.
“Plea bargaining, when explored at the earliest stage of the case, makes a huge difference in not only securing perpetrator accountability but also in obtaining swift justice for the victims,” she said. “It conserves government resources, which would otherwise be poured out into years of trial. Plea bargaining – when mainstreamed from a position of strength while ensuring that justice is not shortchanged – will have a positive impact on our criminal justice system.”
Senior Superintendent Romeo Perigo, who led the operation to arrest Berame, said that his guilty plea had brought closure to the case.
“He knows that there is possibility for life imprisonment if he is convicted after full trial. It’s a victory to the law enforcement, prosecution, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and IJM, which has been our partner in fighting the online sexual exploitation of children,” he added.
As we have previously reported, the IJM has supported Philippine law enforcement agencies in 120 operations leading to the arrest of 179 suspected traffickers and the rescue of 415 victims.
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