Here’s a depressing story I hope will never happen to anyone.
My niece, a mere thirteen years of age, was the victim of human trafficking. She was lured by a 40 year old neighbor, who goes by the name Janet, from a barangay in Baguio City and brought her to work as a waitress in a bar somewhere in Abatan, Buguias, Benguet. My niece was actually made to believe that she will be attending to a “wagwagan” store but instead she ended up working in a bar.
Eventually, she got pregnant so the owner of the bar advised her to go home. No one from the bar accompanied her home. When she came home, she did not tell her mom (who is a single mother and a cousin of mine) that she’s pregnant. Her mom only discovered it this month (August 2012) when gossip about her daughter’s pregnancy reached her. She’s now 6 months pregnant – and at 13 years old!
Somehow, a self-proclaimed non-government organization (NGO) called Counter Intelligence Service and Vigilant Group learned of my niece’s situation and so they offered her and her mom assistance in prosecuting those responsible for what happened to her.
On the other hand, I also learned of what happened to my niece. I know my niece personally because they used to come over to our house when she was still a lot younger. The news that came to me was that she and her mom were already being assisted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); that CISG is also involved in assisting her (At this point, I was not yet aware of what CISG is – it was actually my first time hearing such a group). What was impressed to me was that CISG was a sub-office of DSWD and so I thought my niece will be taken cared of.
But then later on I was told that when CISG assisted my cousin and my niece in going to Abatan, they were letting her (my cousin) shoulder gasoline and food expenses. My cousin had to take out a loan from other relatives just so she could cover the transportation expenses. When they reached Abatan and came face to face with the 22 year old guy who got my niece pregnant, the CISG pushed for a settlement. So eventually the parties agreed to a settlement where it was agreed that the family of the guy will pay P100k (lowered down from P200k), that they will be supporting the child until the age of 2; Janet (bugaw 47 year old neighbor) will pay P30k; and the bar owner will pay P30k – in exchange, my cousin should not initiate the filing of any criminal or civil case against the three parties.
When I heard about this, you can just imagine how pissed I was. Such an agreement is absurd. You cannot stipulate criminal liability especially when it is a clear case of human trafficking and statutory rape. So I began to wonder, what the hell is CISG thinking? What is CISG anyway?
So I began investigating. I asked for more details and I found out that CISG introduced itself to my cousin as an international humanitarian organization; that they are an instrumentality of the Commission on Human Rights. I also found out that my cousin and CISG never actually went to DSWD; that CISG promised to bring the issue before the DSWD but until now they haven’t gone there yet; that my cousin was advised by CISG that if they bring the case to the DSWD, the latter will only fault her for being negligent because her 13 year old daughter got pregnant; that DSWD will file a case against her for neglecting her child. Now my cousin is not the most learned of persons so she may have feared what was advised to her by the CISG. CISG is also asking for P1,500.00 for each affidavit and they asked it in advance; they told my cousin they’ll be preparing two affidavits so she paid P3k!
I then went online and made a search on CISG. They have their website here. Their website say that they are committed against lawlessness; that they are there to assist citizens in seeking justice. It would seem also that this is a Baguio-based group because their address is in Baguio City – though the website also intimates that they have office in NCR but no other links are provided because they say their website is “under construction”.
After that I went to DSWD’s website. I checked their list of recognized NGOs in and out of the Cordillera Region and there’s no mention of CISG. I then called up DSWD and they said they never heard of CISG; that amicably settling cases of human trafficking and rape is not allowed. It is to be noted that criminal liability cannot be stipulated upon and any contract or agreement to that effect is void. Just imagine if this is allowed, how many rich men can get away with a crime just by paying off the victim. Immediately, I made an appointment with DSWD and I was advised to go to their office with my cousin and my niece on Tuesday (August 28, 2012) because Monday’s a holiday.
What irks me most about all these is the fact that an NGO purporting itself to be an agent of justice is letting such an injustice happen. I mean, they present themselves to victims when they are most vulnerable, when they are mostly in need of help and then this is the kind of help they’ll give? It’s just preposterous and is an abomination of what genuine NGOs stand for. I cannot help but impute bad faith on CISG. They claim to be vigilant about people’s rights especially victims of crimes and yet look at what they’re doing. Why do they have to impute negative things about DSWD? They are supposed to be partners. Why are they pushing to settle a would-be criminal case when the guilt of the would-be accused is clear? It is admitted that there are disputes that can be subjected to amicable settlement but not in this case especially when the victim is a minor. Why are they asking for P1,500.00 for an affidavit? When affidavits can be executed at a much lower price or even for free at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)? Why didn’t they bring the issue to the DSWD? Or seek assistance from the PAO? If they’re really for the welfare of the victim-child, why push for settlement when you can send the guilty party behind bars – and at the same time make them pay for damages in a court of law. Why are they sanctioning an agreement where the father of the child shall only support the baby only until the child reaches 2 years old? I’m beginning to suspect that they’ll be having a cut from whatever settlement money my cousin will be receiving.
And one other thing, will this agreement that they are pushing for have a legal effect? Take note that this is not sanctioned by any court of law. Nor is CISG a legitimate mediating body.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens on Tuesday. I just hope no one else gets duped by this CISG.